Teens steal­ing par­ents’ drugs, doc­tor warns

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Camille Bains

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 in an in­ter­view 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 may 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 too many sub­stances are laced with the pow­er­ful opi­oid painkiller fen­tanyl, Barakett said.

A BC Coro­ners Ser­vice re­port is­sued Thurs­day says 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 says the opi­oid painkiller fen­tanyl was de­tected in 81 per cent of all deaths in the prov­ince so far this year.

Mike Serr, chair of the drug ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee for the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice, said par­ents of­ten don’t no­tice when one or two pills are miss­ing, es­pe­cially if a drug is taken oc­ca­sion­ally to man­age pain.

Serr, who is deputy chief of the Ab­bots­ford Po­lice Depart­ment, said a mother who spoke at a pub­lic fo­rum on fen­tanyl in the Fraser Val­ley city warned other par­ents that her son be­came ad­dicted to opi­oids af­ter steal­ing her med­i­ca­tion.

“There weren’t too many dry eyes in the room,” he said of the fo­rum last spring, adding the teen ended up liv­ing on the streets but he is now on the road to re­cov­ery.

Kerr said teens who start steal­ing their par­ents’ med­i­ca­tion of­ten re­peat the same be­hav­iour at other rel­a­tives’ and friends’ homes and may even start sell­ing the drugs.

Many po­lice de­part­ments have held an­nual days for peo­ple to bring in their un­used drugs for dis­posal but Kerr said lack of re­sources mean few forces cur­rently par­tic­i­pate in what they con­sider an im­por­tant com­mu­nity event.

Marc Paris, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Drug Free Kids Canada, said he’s heard sto­ries of teens steal­ing their par­ents’ drugs and tak­ing them to so-called pill par­ties.

“They put them in a big jar and start pop­ping pills to see what kind of an ef­fect it has. They don’t know what they’re tak­ing. Some­times they end up in emer­gency rooms and they can’t tell the doc­tor what they took.”

Paris sug­gested par­ents use a lock box or other se­cure place to stow away opi­oids and drugs such Tylenol with codeine that they may be keep­ing for oc­ca­sional pain.

It’s also im­por­tant for par­ents to have on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions with their kids about drugs.

“It’s mak­ing sure that you’re in tune with what the kids are fac­ing at the school­yard, at par­ties, on the street. Ask, ‘If you were at a party and some­body of­fered you a pill what would you do?’”


A fam­ily doc­tor who treats chronic sub­stance use says par­ents with teenagers should lock up their drugs.

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