One common way youth spiral into prescription drug misuse is through oral surgery, typically with wisdom tooth removal, and also at home; the medicine cabinet can oftentimes be the place where youth first obtain access to prescription pills.
There are several steps you can take to help the youth in your life. One step is to get into the habit of regularly counting your pills, around every two weeks. Getting into the habit of counting your pills will make you more aware of how many you should have left. Lock up your medications in a lockbox to add a barrier to potential abuse; this is a deterrent to youth by making them second guess their decisions. Taking any unused or expired medications to a permanent drop box is another way to keep pills out of the wrong hands.
Doing the above steps not only help you keep track of your pills to prevent theft and abuse but they also demonstrate safe prescription pill practices. If your child sees you regularly counting your pills and knows you are keeping them out of harm’s way, it makes them realize that this is something to take seriously and increases their perception of harm surrounding prescription medications.
Knowing some other reasons why youth might abuse drugs could help you understand more. One reason is the desire to fit in and go along with what their friends are doing so they don’t feel left out. Academic pressure is another reason; taking performance-enhancing substances to help them keep up with their workload. Peer pressure is another potential reason why youth might turn to substance abuse.
Every year the National Institute on Drug Abuse conducts their Monitoring the Future Survey. The following results are for 2018 and include students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade.
In 2018, past-year vaping for each grade was
8th grade: 17.6%
10th grade: 32.3%
12th grade: 37.3%
The survey also asked the students what they thought they were vaping
8th grade: 10.9%
10th grade: 24.7%
12th grade: 29.7%
Marijuana or hash oil
8th grade: 4.4%
10th grade: 12.4%
12th grade: 13.1%
8th grade: 15.1%
10th grade: 24.7%
12th grade: 25.7%
In the past five years, binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) dropped considerably across all grades in the last five years.
In 2018, binge drinking rates for each grade
8th grade: 3.7%
10th grade: 8.7%
12th grade: 13.8%
Past year misuse of prescription/OTC drugs among 12th graders in 2018
Cough or cold medicine: 3.4%
Past year use of illicit drugs among 12th graders in 2018
Synthetic cannabinoids: 3.2%
Past-year misuse of Vicodin® and OxyContin® among 12th graders has dropped quite a bit in the past 15 years, from 10.5% in 2003 to 1.7% in 2018 for Vicodin® and from 4.5% in 2003 to 2.3% for OxyContin®
The good news in these statistics is that these are the lowest levels in over 20 years. This shows that all the prevention work currently happening and increasing the perception of harm is working to keep youth from misusing different types of substances.