In recent months, I have become increasingly alarmed and truly pained by the rising incidence of prescription pill use in middle schools and high schools all over Los Angeles. It seems to be particularly rampant in many of the private school settings where youth have access to more financial means and increasing pressures to perform, academically, to compete to get into Universities. Our youth are overexposed and overwhelmed, and many are just not equipped to handle the pressure they are facing at school. The big offenders: Stimulants (Adderall and other meds prescribed for ADHD) , Opiates (Norco, Vicodin, etc), and Benzodiazapines (Xanax “bars” and Valium are the ones most readily available). Just one dose of an opiate, for example, can be sold for up to $80!
Here’s the time we are living in: Realtors are now telling their clients that they should lock up all of their prescription medications prior to any open house event so as to prevent prescription meds being stolen. Really??!! So, I am telling all of my client’s parents to be ever mindful that prescription medications are readily available and that they need to be talking to their kids about them just as much as they are about street drugs. They also need to continue to educate themselves about the symptoms and signs of various prescription pills as you would with any other drug. Teens mistakenly think that, because a pill is from a pharmacy, that it is somehow less “dangerous” or “addictive” than a street drug. This false belief, coupled with the invincibility associated with the developmental stage they are moving through, is a pretty toxic combination.
Parents and caregivers, be mindful of your own thoughts and beliefs about prescription drugs. Anecdotally, many teens tell me they need only go to their parents medicine cabinet and don’t believe a few pills here and there will be noticed, which often they are not. Lastly, and very importantly, substance use is different than abuse. If you discover your child is experimenting or using with regularity, act quickly. Individual therapy is but one avenue of support. I always recommend a family approach so that a young person doesn’t feel like they are the problem, but that they are having a problem that they can sort out as part of a team.