AwareBy Carmen A. Cartizone

The end of the year is a busy time for everyone. Children are excited about gifts, teenagers are focused on socializing with friends during their holiday breaks, and adults are busy creating wonderful memories for their family and friends. However, it is important to stay focused on teens that may need some extra guidance. The AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program has some helpful tips to keep your curious teen away from prescription drugs during this festive season.

Educate, Educate, Educate. . . Even During a Holiday Break

Children that are educated by their parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse are 50% less likely to abuse or misuse medications. Give your teens the knowledge they need to avoid a dangerous path.

Take some time to sit down with your children as soon as possible to discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Many teens do not see the intentional misuse of prescription drugs as a great risk. Did you know that among 12- and 13-year-olds who abuse drugs, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused?

Let your teens know that prescription drugs can be just as deadly as street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. Prescription drugs may be provided by a doctor, but they are only meant for use by a specific person to treat a specific problem. Even improper use of a teen’s own prescription medication can lead to an overdose or liver damage. Encourage them to ask questions about their medications and help them to understand that any misuse can lead to serious health consequences, including death.

The Key to Secure Storage at Home

Test your holiday gift hiding skills by finding an unexpected medicine storage location. Medicine safes, locking cupboards, and high shelves in linen closets are ideal locations to store medications. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications should be stored in places that are out of sight and out of mind. Avoid bathroom medicine cabinets, which are easily accessible and can lead to medicine degradation due to the heat and humidity. Most medications should be stored in a cool and dry location.

Keep inventory of your medications so that you know if any pills go missing. Ask guests to monitor their medications as well, or offer to place their medications in your locked storage cabinet for safekeeping. Do not be too shy to ask – most people who are visiting for the holidays care about the best interests of your family.

Making a List

Watch your child’s behavior and speak with your family physician or school’s guidance counselor if you notice anything unusual. Do not forget to monitor your credit card statements and look for any suspicious purchases. Rogue online pharmacies are an easy way to obtain prescription drugs. Many of these rogue websites do not require a prescription to make purchases.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacies® (NABP®) has reviewed more than 10,800 online pharmacies and found that nearly 97% are operating illegally; they do not comply with state and federal pharmacy laws and regulations. The prescription drugs that your teens could purchase may have too much medication, incorrect medication, or filler ingredients like rat poison and dry wall. If you buy your prescription drugs online, take a look at AWARXE’s Safe Acquisition ( page to learn how to find a safe online pharmacy.

Remind your teens that taking drugs from friends is just as dangerous as buying drugs from rogue online pharmacies; they can never be sure of what they are taking.

Toss Those Lumps of Coal

Expired, unwanted, and unused medication may not be monitored as closely thereby posing an increased risk of abuse. Dispose of any unwanted prescription medications in a timely manner. Swing by a local medication disposal site while running holiday errands.

Disposal sites are located in most states and typically accept prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins. Find a location by visiting the Drug Disposal Sites ( locator tool on AWARXE’s website. If there is not a location in your area, check local and Food and Drug Administration guidelines for disposal methods that will protect your loved ones and the environment.

Now and the New Year

It is important to maintain your priorities beyond the holiday season. Following these steps year round should lessen the chance for prescription drug abuse by your teen.

To learn more about prescription drug safety for children of all ages, take a look at the Students ( page on AWARXE’s website and have a safe season of joy!

About the contributor:

Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, is the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) and the secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee. He currently serves as a governor of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Board of Directors and chair of the PTCB Certification Council. He is a past president of the National Pharmacy Manpower Project and the National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations as well as a past member of the United States Pharmacopeia Board of Directors. He has also acted as a reviewer on several advisory boards and has provided expert witness testimony and consultation in the areas of pharmacy practice and regulation.