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Prescription meds are a threat to children

Although illicit drug use among teenagers continues to decline, emergency physicians are reminding parents and caregivers that prescription medications remain a threat to teenagers and very small children, principally because they are so readily available at home.

"The word is getting out to teens and their parents that prescription medications are dangerous when used improperly, but plenty of risk remains," said Dr. Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  

The news on young people and drugs is mixed.  A government report out this week shows a decline in all types of drug abuse by children ages 12 to 17, from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 9.5 percent in 2007, though it also shows a rise of 12 percent in illicit use of prescription pain relievers among young adults ages 18 to 25.  A report out earlier this year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that despite an overall drop in illicit drug use, deaths from drug use among people age 15 to 24 more than doubled between 1999 and 2005.  

Emergency physicians offer some tips for restricting access to prescription medications:

n Hide all medications in a secure location, which may not be the bathroom medicine cabinet

n Discard any prescription medications that are left over or expired

n Alert grandparents who visit or host their grandchildren that their prescriptions should always be locked up and hidden away, including individual pills which curious toddlers may put into their mouths

n Monitor your teenager's Internet use for shopping on pharmaceutical websites

n Discuss with neighbors and parents of your child's friends the importance of keeping prescription medications locked away

"Children of all ages are naturally curious, and teenagers are especially prone to peer pressure," said Dr. Lawrence.  "Parents need to emphasize to their children that all drugs can be harmful if misused.  The bottom line is access: If your kids can't get the drugs, they can't hurt themselves with them."