It’s happening more often in homes throughout America every day. Grandma or Grandpa reaches for their medication and it’s gone – stolen by a family member, a grandchild’s best friend or a thief looking for pain pills in the medicine cabinet to feed a bad habit.
Sadly, no one wants to believe a grandson or granddaughter is capable of taking something that does not belong to them without asking – certainly not prescription medicine, which has been legally prescribed by a physician for a legitimate health condition. But young people are becoming increasingly attracted to prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines today, even more so than the street drugs commonly considered to be every family’s worst nightmare.
Lock Your Meds™ is a new national multimedia campaign designed to reduce prescription drug abuse by making adults aware that they are the unwitting suppliers of prescription medications being used in unintended ways, especially by young people.
The campaign is produced by the National Family Partnership (NFP), a growing network of local coalitions, government agencies, education and parent groups that work to improve the lives of families at the grassroots level. NFP provides a national voice and valuable resources to these groups. Red Ribbon Week is orchestrated annually in schools throughout the country.
Lock Your Meds™ is a call to action for all parents and families to take a stand against the alarming increase in prescription drug abuse. Since 70 percent of the abused drugs come from friends and families, these unwitting suppliers can be a force in curbing the abuse.
“You may be a supplier and don’t know it,” says Peggy Sapp, president of NFP and frequent keynote speaker on parenting issues. “We urge all family members to be aware and don’t share your medications. We believe that when armed with appropriate information and tools, parents and grandparents can become our number one line of defense against this dangerous and potentially deadly epidemic.”
Today’s news headlines are filled with stories about “pill mills” and “doc shopping,” and while they are real problems, they aren’t the primary suppliers. Neither are typical drug dealers on the street. In fact, prescription drugs are abused more than all other illicit drugs combined, except marijuana, and they’re being taken from purses, medicine cabinets and grandma’s pill case. Most teenagers taking the drugs see nothing wrong with it because a doctor prescribed it.
Every day more than 4,000 young people begin experimenting with prescription drugs. The number of admissions to treatment facilities has increased 400 percent in the last 10 years, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“These findings should serve as exclamation points to what we already know – abuse of prescription drugs is our country’s fastest-growing drug problem, the source of which lurks far too often in our home medicine cabinets,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). “Reducing prescription drug abuse is a top priority of this administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, and requires collaboration across the medical, prevention, treatment and enforcement communities.”
To help grandparents, NFP offers a glossary of terms teens use to describe the most popular abused drugs, such as “pancakes and syrup” to describe a combination of pills and cough syrup. The glossary is called “Close the Communication Gap.” Families can gather information about the extent of the problem by reading the “MEDucation Kit” and learn preventive steps from the “Parent Guide” to begin reversing the alarming trend.
The campaign Web site (http://www.lockyourmeds.org) includes easy-to-use resources, such as a home medicine inventory card and guidelines on how to properly dispose of prescription medicine. Parents can take a stand against prescription drug abuse by signing a pledge and sharing their message with friends and family. “We don’t have to feel helpless,” said Sapp. “This is something very tangible that each and every one of us can do.”
“Pain medications serve a very useful purpose for those in need,” said Marsha Stanton, senior director of advocacy for King Pharmaceuticals. “But in the wrong hands, they can be addictive and even deadly. Our advice is to take inventory, lock up your meds, talk to your children regularly about the dangers and join our campaign.” King Pharmaceuticals provides financial support for the campaign along with community education programs and new pain medications designed to make them safer.
For more information on prescription drug abuse or to download Lock Your Meds materials, please visit lockyourmeds.org.