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Preventing Teen Prescription Medicine Abuse

What is prescription medicine abuse?
Using prescriptions for reasons other than those intended by a doctor is prescription medicine abuse.  Prescription abuse by teenagers is a growing national trend that Northampton parents, educators, and the community should be aware of.

How many Northampton teens are doing this?
According to survey data of Northampton youth, less than 5% of 8th and 10th grade students report misusing prescription drugs in the past 30 days.  Among Northampton 12thgrade students, 9% report having used stimulant medications without a prescription in the past 30 days (such as Adderall or Ritalin) and 8% report having used a narcotic medication without a prescription in the past 30 days (such as OxyContin, Vicodin, or Percocet).*

What are the risks of prescription abuse?
There are both immediate and long-term risks to medicine abuse. In the short term, overdosing can be fatal, as can mixing prescription medicine with over-the counter medicine and/or alcohol. In the longer term, prescription opioids (pain relievers) and other prescription medicines have been proven to be potentially addictive. Relying on prescription medicines at a young age to help “manage” life can establish a lifelong pattern of dependency and prevent teens from learning important coping skills.

What’s a Northampton parent to do?
1. Communicate the risks of prescription medicine abuse to your kids. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who do not get that critical message from their parents (visit and for information).

2. Safeguard your medicine. Keep prescription medicine in a secure place, count and monitor the number of pills you have and lock them up — and ask your friends and family members to do the same.

3. Safely dispose of unused prescription medicine.  Unless the directions on the packaging say otherwise, do not flush medication down the drain or toilet.  The Northampton Police Department has a new 24-hour drug drop-off box for unwanted medicines (the drop-off box is the best way to keep unwanted medicines out of the wrong hands AND the environment).  If you aren’t able to get to the drop-off box, take medicine out of original containers, mix with an undesirable substance (i.e., coffee grounds or kitty litter), put in a sealable bag and throw in the trash.

*Prevention Needs Assessment Survey 2011, SPIFFY Coalition,

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