Parents warned to lock up medication from teens
Thefts can lead to drug addiction: MD
VANCOUVER — Teenagers who steal prescription medication from a medicine cabinet at home may be at risk of becoming addicted to drugs, says a family doctor who treats chronic substance use.
Dr. William Barakett said parents should lock up their medication and return unused drugs to a pharmacy for disposal.
Parents must ensure their teens aren’t pocketing drugs to mask an emotional disorder such as ADHD, he said.
They also need to take a “good hard look” at whether there’s a family history of addiction, said Barakett, an advisory council member for Drug Free Kids Canada.
He recently testified before a House of Commons committee hearing on marijuana and said many of his patients began smoking pot as young as 12 before stealing their parents’ medication.
Barakett told the committee the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis should include extensive publiceducation campaigns about the risks of pot consumption on adolescent brains.
The message about the dangers of teens using medication also needs to get out, especially during the current opioid epidemic, he said from Knowlton, Que.
“If there are opioids left in the medicine chest at home, adventurous kids are going to start to play with them,” Barakett said, adding self-medicating teens who develop an addiction to opioid painkillers might seek the drugs elsewhere.
“I’ve had kids who are addicted to opioids in pill form and I ask them: ‘Where do you obtain it?’ Some of them have told me: ‘We hang around old folks’ homes.’ ”
Seniors who no longer need their drugs have been known to sell them to teens for extra cash, Barakett said.
Teens buying drugs on the street are taking a huge risk because many substances are laced with the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl, Barakett said.
A B.C. Coroners Service report issued Thursday said 17 people between the ages of 10 and 18 died of suspected overdoses between January and August this year. That’s up from 12 deaths last year and five deaths in all of 2015.
The report said the opioid painkiller fentanyl was detected in 81 per cent of all deaths in the province so far this year.
Marc Paris, executive director of Drug Free Kids Canada, suggested parents use a lock box or other secure place to stow away opioids and drugs such as Tylenol with codeine that they might be keeping for occasional pain.
It’s also important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about drugs, he said.