Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drug Use among Teens

by SKHC Editor on April 7, 2009

As the parent of a responsible teenager would you be okay with letting them make their own decision as to when to take an over-the-counter medication or prescription drug?

Many families have Advil, Tylenol or prescribed drugs in their medicine cabinets. Most parents know when their teenager is in need of a pain reliever or cold and cough medicine. As the parent of a trustworthy child why wouldn’t you be okay with sending your child to school with symptom appropriate medicine or prescribed drugs?

There’s just one obstacle – the school. What is your school’s policy regarding over-the-counter meds and prescription drugs? Many schools have strict policies as to what’s acceptable for students to carry on them and what needs to be kept in the school office or health room.

In Fairfax County, the mother of an Oakton High School student felt her heart drop when her daughter was suspended for two weeks and recommended for expulsion. She must have done something very serious, right? This was her punishment for being caught taking her birth control pill (which her mother knew she was taking) during lunchtime.

Remember the case of the 13 year old Arizona student who was strip-searched in 2003 because administrative personnel suspected she was carrying ibuprofen pills? The case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court later this month.

These are obviously extreme cases. There is a flipside to the argument. Many schools have incorporated zero tolerance policies on drugs for near two decades. Your teen may be responsible what about their peers? Is it possible they’re abusing over-the-counter and/or prescription drugs found right in their home medicine cabinet and bringing them to school?

According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, one in five teens in Arizona admits to abusing prescription drugs. Maricopa County features a prevention campaign geared towards parents with public service announcements and billboards stating, “Don’t be your kid’s dealer.”

As open and informative with your teenager as you may be sometimes it’s just not enough. Your teenager could be earning great grades, participating in school activities and be leading what you consider an ordinary life. However, whether due to peer pressure or the misconception that over-the-counter and prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, sometimes curiosity gets the best of them.

How do you feel about over-the-counter and prescription drug use among teens? Do you trust your teen but not others so as a precaution you keep all meds locked away? Do you feel if they’re responsible and know when to take them and when not to that it’s okay to bring them to school without notifying the school nurse or administrator? Do you hand deliver any meds to the school nurse or office staff with directions on when to use? How do you handle these situations?

Sources: WashingtonPost.com, AZCentral.com

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