FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teens' addiction to prescription or over-the-counter drugs often begins when they have easy access to medications in their homes, an expert says.
Many parents make a special effort to keep medications away from young children to prevent accidental poisonings, but don't realize that teens are the group most likely to misuse and abuse medications, said Dr. Eric Collins, an addiction psychiatrist at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Conn.
As many as 20 percent of American teens have abused prescription drugs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 50 percent of U.S. high school seniors said that narcotic drugs other than heroin would be fairly or very easy to get, according to a 2012 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey.
"Adolescents sometimes believe that medications prescribed by a doctor or available OTC are a medically 'safe' high, but this is just one of the tragic myths that prevail," Collins said in a hospital news release.
"This dangerous misconception, along with the easy availability of these medications, are key contributors to the prescription drug addiction crisis affecting more than 2 million American children," he added.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26 is a nationwide program to encourage people to safely dispose of expired or unwanted prescription medications.
In advance of that day, Collins offered parents advice on how to keep medications out of teenagers' hands.
Keep all prescription and, if possible, OTC medications locked up and make sure that grandparents and other relatives do the same in their homes, he said. It's also a good idea to have an updated, written inventory of all prescription and OTC medications in your home.
Be sure to properly dispose of unused and expired medications, he reminded. One way is to take them to your local pharmacy. Don't pour them down the sink or flush them in the toilet because this can contaminate the water supply, Collins said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about prescription drug abuse.