When taken as directed for legitimate medical purposes (and prescribed appropriately) prescription drugs can be safe and effective at treating illnesses and conditions. However, the increasing rates of prescription drug abuse are a growing and now urgent problem, especially among young people.  Powerful prescription drugs are often available and easily accessible in many, if not most, homes and many parents don’t recognize that these (sometimes dangerous) meds can be tempting for teens.  They’re often easily accessible in home medicine cabinets, and hundreds Arizonans face the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse every day.

Accidental overdoses of drugs, followed by intentional self-poisoning (suicide) and drug abuse are the three major categories of drug-related mortality. In 2009, 1,101 Arizonans died from drug poisoning– which is twice as many as in 1999. Opioids (such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and other synthetic narcotics) were responsible for most drug overdoses. On top of the 1,101 deaths from poisoning (due to dependence, abuse or misuse of drugs) drug poisoning was mentioned as a secondary factor on another 511 death certificates where the main cause was heart disease or cancer or some other chronic condition. Our drug-related death statistics for 1985-2009 are available online.  Only 8 of these deaths (0.7 percent) were due to drugs causing adverse effects in therapeutic use.

Parents of teens should really pay attention to what they have around the house, maybe you should make a New Years Resolution to clean up your medicine cabinet.  There are a number of online resources and tips for prevention .  If you know a teen that needs help, you can visit the national crisis information webpage.