But Mother, They Were In Your Medicine Cabinet

But Mother, They Were In Your Medicine Cabinet


According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America:

  • 1 in 5 teens has abused a prescription pain medication
  • 1 in 5 teens report abusing prescription stimulants and tranquilizers
  • 1 in 10 teens have abused cough medication
  • According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:
    • Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide, more teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug except marijuana - more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined.
    • Every day, 2,500 kids aged 12-17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time and more people are getting addicted to prescription drugs.
    • Drug treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 300 percent from 1995 to 2005.
    • Teens are abusing prescription drugs because many believe the myth that these drugs provide a “safe” high.
    • Especially troubling is that the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs say they are easy to get and are often free.


    At Novus some of our patients are young people who tell us about parties that kids as young as 11 attend. Instead of bringing a present, each child is to bring some prescription drugs that they got from their parents' medicine cabinet. When they arrive at the party, they go into a room and pour the drugs into a punch bowl. Then the kids will take turns reaching into the bowl and taking a handful of pills. Sometimes the kids combine this with alcohol--an often lethal combination.

    When confronted by astounded parents, their children often remark that it is ok because these are not illegal drugs-- they were purchased at a pharmacy and, after all, they were in their parents' medicine cabinet. A 15-year-old was quoted as saying that she saw the drug advertised on television and if it were dangerous it wouldn't be on television.


    It is not pleasant, but if you spend a few minutes on the internet you will see not statistics but real stories of prescription drug overdoses and deaths of teens. In many of these instances, the fatal drug overdose did not come after long periods of prescription drug use. The fatal overdoses came the first time they took the prescription drugs. Maybe it was their individual DNA. Maybe it was the way that the drug was metabolized. Maybe it was another substance that they had taken, like alcohol or another prescription drug. The only thing for sure is that some young people have overdosed and died after their first use.

    One 18 year old died after taking 40 milligrams of Oxycontin while drinking a beer. A 16 year old died after taking 80 milligrams of OxyContin that she was given by a “friend.” Some of the other deceased children’s parents said that they didn't believe in taking any type of drugs, but that didn't stop their children from yielding to peer pressure and “trying” the drug.


    Painkillers (OxyContin and its generic form oxycodone, Lortab, Vicodin, Percodan, Percocet and the Fentanyl Patch) are the most common pharmaceuticals abused by teens, especially by younger teens. Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall) abuse is more common among older teens and college students than younger teens. Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are abused by teens of all ages.

    Oxies, OC, hillbilly heroin, oxycotton, 80s, percs, vikes, and vikings are commonly used terms to refer to painkillers. Ritz, rippers, dexies, and bennies are commonly used terms to refer to stimulants. Benzos, xanies, xani-bars, xani-bombs, and roofies are commonly used terms to refer to benzodiazepines.

    Everyone understands that heroin is a dangerous drug and many people die from heroin overdoses. What parent would not be horrified if their children took heroin? However, if your children are taking these narcotic painkillers, they are taking drugs that mimic the effects of heroin in the body.

    Everyone understands that cocaine is a dangerous drug. What parent wants their children to use cocaine? However, many parents watch their children take Ritalin and Adderall, two heavy stimulants that are Schedule II drugs-just like cocaine. In 2006, it is estimated that three out of 10 high school seniors abuse prescription stimulants.

    Stimulant side effects include dilated pupils, increased heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and delusions, hostility and aggression, and panic, suicidal, or homicidal tendencies. Overdose or death is preceded by high fever, convulsions, and heart failure which may be hastened by physical activity.

    Benzodiazepines can cause dilated pupils and slurred speech, feelings of intoxication, loss of motor coordination, respiratory depression, sensory alteration, depression and lowered blood pressure. In younger children these side effects are multiplied and can lead to seizures and, if not immediately addressed, death.

    Since antidepressants (Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro) are prescribed now for everything from weight loss to muscle pain, they are in many medicine cabinets and are left lying on bedside tables. As we discussed last week, there is now evidence that these drugs are no more effective than a placebo (sugar pill) and that they are linked to 52% of the suicides by women in Sweden in 2006. The FDA has ordered suicide and violence warnings placed on the antidepressant boxes if these dangerous drugs are taken by teenagers because these violent side effects are even more prevalent in younger people.

    The danger to teens from all of these prescription drugs is greatly increased when they are combined with each other or with alcohol.

    No caring parent would leave heroin, cocaine or other dangerous street drugs on their nightstand or in the medicine cabinet or just dump it in the garbage. However, many parents do exactly this with legal heroin, legal cocaine: antidepressants and benzodiazepines.


    In our society where it seems that every bad thing must be blamed on someone else and that someone else should pay, there is real financial and legal liability if these dangerous drugs are taken by teens.

    Most of us are aware that if a child obtains a loaded gun from our house and someone is harmed, we can have both civil and criminal liability for not having properly locked up the weapon. We have read of people being sued and losing their homes and most of their assets because of the use of the unsecured weapon. We have also seen people who have actually been prosecuted for their negligence of leaving a loaded gun around and were sent to prison.

    Prescription drugs are highly regulated. They can only be obtained if a doctor writes a prescription. They carry many serious warnings. Every day there are more stories about prescription drug abuse, the dangers of prescription drugs and the deaths caused by prescription drugs.

    If your son or daughter were to give another child these prescription drugs and they were to overdose and die, it is highly likely that a civil suit against you for negligence will result in your having to pay damages.

    There is also a chance that you could face criminal prosecution for your leaving dangerous drugs around that could lead to the death of another.


    Maybe your child is an entrepreneur and does not take the prescription drugs that he or she gets from your medicine cabinet or bedside table but instead sells them to others. Possession of controlled substances with intent to sell is a crime. The painkillers are mostly Schedule II drugs. Ritalin and Adderall are Schedule II drugs. Most benzodiazepines are Schedule IV drugs.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report “Crime in the United States”, there were 143,639 juveniles arrested by state and local law enforcement agencies for drug abuse violations during 2006, representing 10.4% of the drug arrests in which the offender’s age was reported.

    If your child is caught in possession of any amount of painkillers or stimulants here are the federal guidelines:

    • First Offense: Not more than 20 years. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years, or more than life. Fine $1 million.
    • Second Offense: Not more than 30 years. If death or serious injury, not less than life. Fine $2 million.

    If your child is caught with benzodiazepines, here are the federal guidelines:

    • First Offense: Not more than 3 years. Fine not more than $250,000.
    • Second Offense: Not more than 6 years. Fine not more than $500,000.

    Obviously, if your child is treated as a minor the guidelines can be different, but it is still drug trafficking. By leaving prescription drugs around and by not educating our kids about the dangers of prescription drugs, they risk not only serious injury or death but also prison.


    Art Linkletter hosted a television show for a number of years entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” He would tape kids responding to various things and it was quite humorous. Well, kids still say the darndest things but sometimes what they say is not so humorous.

    For example, “But Mommy you take them.” Or, “But Daddy it isn't like I am taking heroin or something.” Or, “But we only took two.” Or, “But they are legal aren't they.” Or, “But a doctor wouldn't give something dangerous.” Or, “But I saw all the good things it can do on television. If it were bad they wouldn't let it be advertised.”

    However, some parents have heard this: “I'm sorry. We couldn't save her.” Or, “The different prescription drugs he took caused him to have a seizure and we couldn't revive him.” Or, “I know that she only took one OxyContin. I'm sorry for your loss.”

    Please help educate our children to the dangers of these prescription drugs. Please help us keep more parents from hearing that their child could not be revived.

    Representatives of Novus Medical Detox Center are speaking at churches, schools, service groups and other venues to educate children and their parents. Larry Golbom at prescriptionaddictionradio.com is educating his listeners. But compared to the tens of billions of dollars spent by the drug companies, making prescription drugs seem the answer to any problems, it is going to take a real grass roots movement to make people aware of the problem and solutions to it.

    Please pass this article on to your friends and neighbors. The life you save may be your child’s.

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