Study: Kids Have Easy Access to Parents' Prescription Drugs

Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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The results of a recent survey indicate that more than half of parents (56%) say that their children have access to their prescription medications, and 1 in 7 parents (14%) have given their children a pain medication that was not prescribed for their child.

The survey, which was conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org, found that a significant percentage of parents fail to recognize that their children are at risk of abusing prescription pain relievers.

For the study, investigators questioned 300 parents of children aged 12 to 25 years who live at home in Massachusetts, an area that has been deeply impacted by Rx drug misuse and abuse. According to the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, more people in the Commonwealth die from fatal overdoses than from car accidents each year, and an average of 12 Massachusetts residents die each week from opioid overdoses.

These findings “are alarming and indicate that parents are often providing prescription drugs to their kids in an improper and dangerous manner,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “Add to that their acknowledgment that their children have ready access to potentially dangerous pain relievers, and we have a high-risk situation in homes across the Commonwealth. Parents need to be aware of what can happen under their own roof and play a more active role in safeguarding medications in their homes.”

Other key findings from the survey are as follows:
  • 27% of Massachusetts parents reported that they have themselves taken Rx pain medications not prescribed for them, at least occasionally.
  • 30% of Massachusetts parents said that they still have unused pain medications at home “in case someone in the family needs them.”
  • Just 19% have spoken to grandparents about safeguarding medicines in their homes.
“Prescription drug abuse is of critical concern in the Commonwealth and is a top priority for our Committee,” said Representative Liz Malia, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, in a statement. “I am pleased to join with The Partnership at Drugfree.org to raise awareness about this problem and help educate parents and families about this dangerous behavior.”

Survey findings also indicate that kids gain easier access to Rx drugs based on the locations that adults use to store these medications in their homes. According to the results, 36% of adults said they store Rx drugs in the kitchen, 30% store them in a bathroom, and 24% store Rx medications in their bedrooms.

“This survey demonstrates the general lack of understanding of the dangerousness and often highly-addictive qualities of prescription drugs,” said Senator John Keenan, Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “Raising awareness about the danger of prescription drug abuse, and helping parents know how to get help for a child, is critical.”

And, as Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, chair of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, pointed out, the problem is not confined to Massachusetts. Parents in all states need to be aware of the dangers of keeping prescription opioids in places where they can be accessed by children.

“We will continue to work with organizations to help raise awareness, and encourage initiatives that are both proactive and preventative especially within our younger populations,” he said.

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