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Talking to your teens about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs can be difficult. But did you know that kids whose parents talk to them about drugs and alcohol use are 50% less likely to use substances? The Time to Talk Parent Blog provides facts, resources and other tools that can help you start the conversation and keep it going.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Focus On: Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs, when used as directed by a medical professional, can be safe and highly effective in treating pain and other health problems. Doses are determined by a patient’s age, weight, gender, other physical conditions and the patient’s medical history. For someone other than the patient to take these medications is very dangerous.

There are three types of prescription drugs that are commonly abused by young adults: 
  • Depressants, used to treat sleep disorders and severe anxiety, such as: Klonopin, Nembutal, Soma, Valium, Xanax
  • Stimulants, used to treat behavior disorders such as ADHD, such as: Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Ritalin
  • Opioids (or Painkillers), which are used to treat pain, such as: Vicodin, Tylenol with Codeine, OxyContin, Pecocet
  • Over-The-Counter Medications (OTCs) such as Corididin HBP Cough and Cold, Robitussin, Vicks 44 Cough Relief
Abuse of these drugs can cause chemical changes in the brain which is particularly troubling among teens because their brains are still developing. The frontal cortex of the brain, where impulse control, judgment and long-range planning take place, does not fully develop until mid 20s. In the absence of a genuine medical condition and without the advice of a physician, the introduction of a non-prescribed drug into the nervous system at this point in the brain’s development is taking a huge risk.

Prescription drug abuse begins when an individual takes prescription medication for reasons other than prescribed by a doctor or dentist. It can begin by taking the drug beyond the recommended time period or by finding illegal sources for the drug. It can begin by taking someone else’s prescription or experimenting with drugs at a party – often called “pharming.” Drug abuse occurs, in part, because of the misconception that prescription drugs are less harmful than illegal drugs because they are prescribed by doctors. This is simply not true. 

Parents. The Anti Drug Marketing Campaign
  • Surveys indicate that abuse of prescription pain medicine is the only form of illicit drug abuse that is increasing among teens.
  • Many teens feel that prescription drugs are “safer to use” than street drugs since are prescribed by a physician. 
  • Teens also feel that prescription drugs are “easier to get than beer,” because prescription medications are easily obtained from friends and family medicine cabinets. 
  • 70% of people age 12 and older who abuse prescription painkillers say they get them from relatives and friends.
  • In Routt County, 1 in 6 teens have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime and begin experimenting as early as 7th grade. 
  • A single large dose of prescription or OTC painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty that can lead to death. 
  • In 2009, more than twice as many people in Colorado died from prescription drug abuse (445) than from drunk-driving related crashes (158). 







Effects of Rx Drugs on My Teen

Possible Health Effects
  • A single large dose of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty that can lead to death.
  • Stimulant abuse can lead to hostility or paranoia, or the potential for heart system failure or fatal seizures.
  • Even in small doses, depressants and painkillers have subtle effects on motor skills, judgment, and ability to learn, which can increase the risk of injury.
  • The abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, coma, and even death.
  • Many teens report mixing prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and alcohol. Using these drugs in combination can cause respiratory failure and death.
  • Teens who first abuse prescription drugs before age 16 also have a greater risk of drug dependence later in life. 
Possible Other Effects
  • Sharing prescription drugs is considered a felony and can lead to fines and jail time.
  • Interferes with or hinders ability to participate in athletics or extracurricular activities, with levels of consequences depending on your school districts’ athletic/activities policies.

Signs that your teen is using Rx Drugs

Some signs that your teen might be using prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs include:
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Flushed skin. 
Other signs and symptoms may vary, but parents should be alert to the following:
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Excessive energy
  • Sleepiness or avoiding sleep
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Forgetfulness
  • Clumsiness 
  • Watch for signs around the house such as missing pills, unfamiliar pills, or empty cough and cold medicine bottles or packages. If your teen has a prescription, keep control of the bottle. Be alert to your teen running out of pills quickly, losing pills, or requesting refills. 
  • Other signs might include secretiveness, loss of interest in personal appearance, borrowing money or having extra cash, skipping classes, or not doing well in school.

How to Start the Conversation about Rx Drugs

Periodically ask your kids what they think about certain drugs. If they say all drugs are bad, ask them to rank drugs in order from least risky to most risky. You may be surprised what they consider to be least risky. For example, teens in the US feel that prescription drugs are “safer to use” than street drugs, since are prescribed by a physician.

What to Say if your child’s favorite celebrity—the one he or she really looks up to—has been named in a drug scandal:

I think it must be really difficult to live a celebrity life and stay away from that stuff. Being in the public eye puts a ton of pressure on people, and many turn to drugs because they think drugs will relieve that stress. But a lot of famous people manage to stay clean – like [name others who don’t do drugs].

The thing is, when a person uses drugs and alcohol—especially a kid because he’s still growing—it changes how his brain works and makes him do really stupid things. Most people who use drugs and alcohol need a lot of help to get better. I hope [name] has a good doctor and friends and family members to help him/her.

What to Say if you find out that kids are selling prescription drugs at your child’s school. Your child hasn’t mentioned it and you want to get the conversation about it started:

Hey, you probably know that parents talk to each other and find things out about what’s going on at school… I heard there are kids selling pills – prescriptions that either they are taking or someone in their family takes. Have you heard about kids doing this?

Make sure that what you say matches what you do. If you tell kids not to use drugs (and you use drugs), they’re going to learn more from your actions than your words. If you’re taking medication to deal with an illness or disease, talk about that honestly and how you use the medication under a doctor’s orders.

Safeguard Your Rx Drugs at Home

Did you know that 70% of people age 12 and older who abuse prescription painkillers say they get them from relatives and friends.  Protect you kids by safeguarding ALL prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications at home:
  • Put drugs away - Place prescription and OTC medications in a secure place, where your teens cannot get access.
  • Monitor pill quantities and medicine levels in your prescription and OTC drug containers, if you choose to keep them in the medicine cabinet.
  • Dispose of old or unused medications by following the specific instructions provided by your pharmacy.
  • Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription and OTC medications too.
  • Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider’s advice and dosage.
  • Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medications.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Kids Need: The Building Blocks for Children and Youth

What are Developmental Assets?

The Developmental Assets® are 40 common sense, positive experiences and qualities that help influence choices young people make and help them become caring, responsible, successful adults. Because of its basis in youth development, resiliency, and prevention research and its proven effectiveness, the Developmental Assets framework has become one of the most widely used approach to positive youth development in the United States.

 Family Support
· life provides high levels of love and support.
· Start family traditions and rituals such as family service, game nights, season outings, or family meetings.
· Give kids space and respect their privacy when they need it.
· Give each of your kids a hug today, even if they’re really big kids.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Focus on: Marijuana

Marijuana can pose a particular threat to the health and well-being of children and adolescents at a critical point in their lives—when they are growing, learning, maturing, and laying the foundation for their adult years. Greater acceptance of marijuana use, compared with use of other illicit drugs, continues to underlie divergent opinions about its dangers, illegality, and potential value. As a parent, your children look to you as a role model and for help and guidance in working out problems and in making decisions, including the decision not to use drugs. Even if you have used drugs in the past, you can have an open conversation about the dangers. Having used drugs should not prevent you from talking to your child about the dangers of drug use. In fact, experience can better equip us to teach others, including drawing on the value of possible mistakes.

Know the Law: Amendment 20 in the Colorado Constitution states that marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes and that medical marijuana card-holders can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate six plants. Persons under the age of 18 years old can obtain a medical marijuana card, but only after strict approval regulations. However, marijuana is a federally illegal substance and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any diseases.

  • Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant.
  • All forms of marijuana are mind-altering (psychoactive). In other words, they change how the brain works.
  • Marijuana contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. Levels of THC are higher in today’s world. For example, one “joint” today is equivalent to smoking 3-5 “joints” in the 1960s.1
  • Marijuana can contain more than 400 other chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50–70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.2,3
  • Marijuana is a federally illegal substance and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any diseases. However, in the state of Colorado, it is acceptable for medical marijuana cardholders to possess up to two ounces of marijuana as well as six plants.4
  • Persons under the age of 18 years old can obtain a medical marijuana card only after strict approval regulations.4
  • Marijuana is UNSAFE if you are behind the wheel. Marijuana compromises judgment and affects many other skills required for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time.5

  • The human brain isn’t fully mature until roughly the age of 25. That means children and adolescents are in stages of brain growth and development that leave them especially vulnerable to problems caused by drug use, abuse and addiction.6
  • In Routt County, 17% of 11th grade male students report using marijuana over 40 times in the past 30 days.7
  • Students in Routt County report trying marijuana for the first time as early as 12 years old or younger.7

    1. 2006 NIDA Report, NIDA, InfoFacts,, 2006.
    2. Above the Influence,
    3. NIDA Fact Sheet, "Effects on Lungs", 2010,
    4. The Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, Colorado Constitution,
    5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 10-4036, Printed 1995, Revised November 1998, Reprinted April 2001, February 2007 Revised November 2002, September 2004, August 2007, March 2011

    6. Colorado Department of Education, "Understand the Big Deal, How Marijuana Harms Youth", 
    7. Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, Routt County, 2009-2010