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Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among Teens: Survey

More than 5 million, nearly 25 percent, said they had abused these medications

continued...

Perhaps this explains another survey finding: While about four in five teens said they had discussed both alcohol and marijuana use with their parents and almost one-third said they had talked with them about crack/cocaine, only between 14 percent and 16 percent said that the topic of painkiller/prescription drug abuse had ever come up.

This was true despite the fact that a parent's medicine cabinet is the repository for 56 percent of the prescription meds teens say they are abusing, the poll found, with nearly half of parents acknowledging that there are no barriers to access at home.

Indeed, 20 percent of parents actually admitted to willfully giving their teen a prescription med that they had on hand, for which their child had no prescription.

That said, Pasierb stressed that the goal of the survey was to draw needed attention to the misconceptions that are at the heart of a rapidly growing problem.

"We know that kids who start abusing when they are very young are much more likely to have an addiction problem as adults," he said. "So, parents need to intervene. They need to control supply and demand by locking up their medicine cabinets and throwing out old expired drugs. And they need to constantly weigh in, starting at very young age, even if they think they have the greatest kid in the world. They need to tell their child about the risks, and make clear how upset they will be if their child abuses these drugs."

One parent speaks from experience.

"I had to learn to set real rules for our home," acknowledged Kat Carnes, a single mom from Houston who has been helping her teenage daughter struggle with an addiction problem that involved a mix of alcohol, street drugs (such as ketamine, ecstasy and cocaine), and prescription meds (including antidepressants).

"She was in 8th grade when all this happened," Carnes recalled. "[But] as I learned more, I discovered that she had been using for a couple of years already, especially during her 7th-grade year, when I was battling breast cancer and not able to focus as closely on her as I probably should have."

Yet, Carnes said the mistakes she made as a parent who initially overlooked her child's growing addiction problem were "pretty common," despite the fact that she is well-versed in medicine and health issues, through her work as a scientific editor and a manager at a major local cancer center.

"I just sort of counted on her to do the right things," Carnes added, "and when she didn't I either tried to minimize it or just hid from it because I didn't know what to do."

Carnes explained that her daughter has now been sober for almost 22 months, with the assistance of a local drug abuse 12-step program and the camaraderie of other families struggling with teen drug abuse. Although careful to describe her daughter's recovery as an ongoing "process," she suggests that much of the progress has been rooted in open and honest communications.

"We hold each other accountable," said Carnes, "for our words and actions."

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