By Sari Harrar
Stolen from medicine cabinets, offered by friends or plucked from a bowl of multicolored pills at a party, prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Ritalin and Valium are the killer new teen high. Too often, parents are clueless when it comes to the prescription-drug abuse epidemic among high school and even middle school teens-- missing early warning signs and fumbling opportunities to educate themselves and protect their kids.
During October and November, the Healthy Kids blog will look at this issue through the stories of former teen prescription drug users now in recovery, their parents and local addiction-recovery experts working to treat addicted teens and help parents prevent under-the-radar and illicit drug use.
Statistics are shocking:
Just as disturbing is how little parents know and do:
It's a disconnect that leaves teens alone and vulnerable-- and keeps parents from acting quickly when they notice that something's changed about a son or daughter's behavior, mood or friends. "Eighty-five to 90% of the parents who come in when their child is here say they had no idea what was going on," says Tom Dietzler, senior clinical director of adolescent and young adult services for Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA. "They never thought prescription drug abuse could happen in their family. But when they see the timeline of their child's drug use, they remember things that didn't seem quite right at the time. They saw the signs, but didn't know what they were looking at."
Our series begins with the story of Tim Rader, an upstate Pa. high school football star who became addicted to opiate painkillers during cancer treatment at age 17. In the days ahead, you'll read about how his parents discovered Tim's addiction years later -- and what drew Rader into recovery.
You'll meet a Souderton mom whose son, the recipient of a college athletic scholarship, died as a freshman after years of Oxycontin abuse and addiction that began when a coworker at an afterschool job offered him pills.
You'll hear from teens and local college students now in recovery and learn about the innovative programs that are supporting their journey. Experts like Dietzler will discuss what parents need to know, how to monitor your child's behavior and friendships without snooping and how to find support if you think your child is abusing drugs. Healthy Kids expert panelists will weigh in with advice as well.