Adapted from a presentation
Even if your child is not predisposed to addiction or drug abuse, one of his or her friends is likely to be. Creating a culture of prevention starts in your home. These are just a few steps to minimize the risk in your family.
This is not a “cure” for those who have the disease but helps prevent those who are from not becoming addicted early which increases their risk of early death
Understanding the current culture
Normalization of drugs – It’s important to recognize that drugs are normalized in our current culture.
Those of use who grew up in the seventies or eighties didn’t grow up with surplus of pain medication in the medicine cabinet. We had aspirin and bandaids and that was about it.
Technology and connection – The technology and internet wave ushered in a new era where we were actually less connected. Families today are not all in the same town either, creating a culture where there is less support.
With social media, kids tend to become more depressed because they compare their lives to what people are highlighting and feel inadequate by comparison.
Surplus of medications – Around 1999, pain medication became commonplace and prescribing guidelines changed when pharmaceutical companies started to heavily market pain medication. People thought, and still do, if it’s prescribed it must be OK. This means that there was a lot of leftover medication which increases the opportunity of abuse.
While the adult addiction rate hovers around 10% of the population, it can be as high as 19% risk for children, teens and young adults. So those with developing brains are more susceptible.
Substance consumption has increased – Today’s marijuana is far stronger than seventies pot and wine and beer serving sizes have grown. Four ounces used to be a serving of wine but today it’s eight ounces and the glasses to hold them have grown, too.
Increased stress – With busier lives, stress has increased creating an environment where mental illness including addiction can thrive.
Lack of coping skills – Kids are not being taught coping skills and with less face time with friends, they have fewer opportunities to develop them. Helicopter parenting also creates kids that are unable to manage adversity and stress.
Less sleep – With the increase in technology and pressure to achieve, kids, especially, are getting less sleep leaving them more vulnerable to drug abuse.
Where does it start?
Usually in your basement, liquor/medicine cabinet or refrigerator. So while parents like to blame “friends” the availability of substances starts in your home.
How do you prevent?
1. Be a good role model
At beach vacations does the “fun” revolve around drinking? Do you come home after work and say that you need a glass of wine to relax? Are holidays all about the alcohol?
Think about what messages you send with what you do and what you say. If vacation and parties are all about the alcohol, your kids get the message that to have fun, you have to have booze. If you say that you can’t relax without a drink, you are saying that a substance is necessary for managing your life, emotions, and adversity. Those messages are on TV shows, in movies which is not something you can control. But you do have control over your own actions so that’s where you can start.
2. Lock up alcohol
The easiest place for kids to get alcohol is from your refrigerator, liquor cabinet, coolers, or your holiday table. Substances are not good for the developing brain and creating an overly relaxed culture about underage drinking in your home creates an environment where your child can develop problem drinking. Just because “you did it” doesn’t mean you make it easier for them. They may get it elsewhere and if they do and get caught, let them suffer consequences.
3. Clear out meds
Medication takebacks are opportunities to get rid of leftover medications. Find a take back near you. Many drugs stores and police stations also have kiosks for returning unused medication.
Walmart sells DisposeRX for the disposal of opioids. It’s either free with a prescription or very low cost.
Use a lockbox to store medication safely. A safe will work, too. But this is a temporary holding space. It’s important to get rid of it. See low cost options here.
4. Set phone limits
When someone says, “monitor your child’s use,” I have to laugh. How the hell do you do that? The only way is to limit exposure. You own the phone. You control at what age they get one. You can set the rules. Hold off as long as you can. Because handing over that phone exposes your child to many things that you have no control over. They know how to get around parental controls and how to hide their activity. There are so many dangerous apps, keeping up with them is a full time expertise.