Prescription drugs are a class of drugs that legally require a doctor’s prescription to obtain them. These drugs are used to treat a variety of diseases, although they are becoming the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. This means that prescription medications in your home could be the target of theft. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the highest prescription drug abuse rate was found in those aged 18-25 at 14.4%, with 12-17-year-olds reporting a rate of 4.9%, which means that the likelihood of drug theft is more likely. Prescription increases with teens at home. The best way to protect your family is to secure your medication and use home security features to monitor your home and what’s inside.
What drugs are targeted for theft?
- Opioids: Opioids are used to reduce the intensity of pain and are highly addictive. Even when used as prescribed by your doctor, long-term use of opioids can lead to addiction, which is why opioids are primarily used for short periods after major events such as surgery. Before prescribing medications, physicians must adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
- Central nervous system depressants: Central nervous system depressants are a class of sedatives and tranquilizers that are used to treat anxiety and sleep disturbances.
- Steroids: Stimulants are used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and sometimes treatment-resistant depression. It increases alertness, attention, and energy, which makes it popular with high school and college students.
Why would someone steal medicine?
It is estimated that nearly 18 million people have misused prescription medications at least once in the past year. Many teens imagine that because these medications are prescribed by a doctor, the prescription drugs are considered safe for use outside of their originally intended purpose. This may explain why there are more opioid-related overdoses and deaths than any other drug combined. Misinformation about the addictive nature of prescription drugs may lead to the belief that these drugs are less harmful than illegal drugs, although this is not the case. Even with such instructive statistics, doctors can’t stop prescribing these medications to patients who really need them, so delivering them responsibly in your home is key.
Teens and prescription drugs
1 in 4 teens admit to abusing prescription drugs at some point, and report a number of motivations for doing so. While some just want to “fit” it into what they see at school or on social media, others take them to experiment and level up, and still others use them to self-medicate for things like pain, anxiety, or insomnia. Young people, already victims of confusion and rapid maturation, are the largest group of prescription drug users. This is why it is important to take preventative measures to stop it before it becomes a problem. Among teens who abuse these drugs, 66% of teens and young adults get them from family, friends, and acquaintances. This means that the targeted people are often those who have “high value” prescriptions in their homes, such as parents and grandparents.
Prevent your medicines from being stolen
Most likely, if you have been a victim of drug theft by a member of your family, you probably did not know that it happened. Fortunately, keeping your medication safe and protecting your family doesn’t have to be difficult. There are pill bottles designed to hold your own, so the pills can stay in their original packaging with an extra layer of protection. There are also plenty of options for lockers, lock boxes, and lock bags designed specifically to secure your medication. If you think you may be a victim of drug theft, follow these steps in the future:
- Keep your prescription tablets together in a safe and secure place.
- Always keep medicines in their original packaging.
- Make an inventory of how many pills you have and update it when you take the pills.
- Never publish, even orally, that you have prescriptions.
- Invest in locking pill bottles or secure storage of your medication.
Security measures at home
However, there are additional things you can do to keep your medications and family safe. After you update your drug inventory and lock it away in a safe or medicine cabinet, you can use security cameras strategically placed inside your home to capture any theft on video. Alternatively, old cell phones that are placed around your house can serve this purpose. Simply install a home security app, install the phone, and you’re ready to go.
There are also separate medicine cabinet alarm systems available that alert you each time the medicine cabinet door is opened. The alert is silent, so instead of alerting the thief, it sends event notifications with a timestamp and date of occurrence to phone numbers and email addresses attached to our account.
Doctors can’t stop prescribing these medications to patients who really need them, so delivering them responsibly in your home is key.
If you don’t want to have a complete medical cabinet security system, you can add door sensors to your medicine cabinet door. Two sensors form a circuit that triggers an alarm and alerts you if the sensors are disconnected but it is recommended that some sensors trigger the alarm, therefore it is less discreet.
Security measures outside the home
Securing your home doesn’t just happen from the inside. Equipping your home with external appliances can deter thieves from ever entering your home. Video doorbells contain motion sensors and powerful cameras that alert you to anyone approaching your home. But your video doorbell can’t see everything. Place additional outdoor surveillance cameras at all entrances to your home to the highest safety standards.
For further reinforcements, you can make some additional home security tools by installing door and window sensors, or you can call the professionals and install home security with a professional monitoring company that makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Eliminate unnecessary prescriptions
Return centers throughout the year
One of the most effective ways to keep your prescriptions out of someone else’s hands is to get rid of the medicines you don’t need. Your first choice for disposal of any leftover prescription drugs should always be to turn them into drug take-back sites from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Depending on where you live, these locations may be located in hospitals, clinics, retail pharmacies, and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, there may be drop-off boxes and mail-back programs in your community.
Day of return of prescription drugs
Twice a year, the DEA organizes a no-questions-asked drug recovery event with temporary locations across the country. During the 18th National Recovery Day in 2019, 6,174 temporary sites were set up that collected 882,919 pounds of over-the-counter medication. These events are also a great way to learn about the potential for abuse when taking any of these prescription medications. Bring your teen to make sure he or she understands the risks of prescription medications and how to dispose of them responsibly.
Safe disposal at home
Holding on to old pills makes them harder to keep track of and increases the chances of prescription drug abuse among your immediate family members. Remember, just because you’re hiding it doesn’t mean teens don’t know about it. Getting rid of excess grains the right way deters teens and prevents accidental poisoning of children or pets. But getting rid of them is not so simple as throwing them in the trash. There are two recommended ways to get rid of pimples at home:
Some medications, which are generally more harmful to others, instruct you to flush out any excess in the toilet or sink immediately. Opioids in both pill and patch form often have these types of directions. Patches should be folded in half with the sticky sides touching before rinsing. Some cities may have environmental ordinances against flushing medications, so if you’re not sure if your medications are OK, check the label and any patient information your pharmacist gives you, as well as your local government website. If all else fails, you can always check the FDA website to find the full list of how to dispose of each type of medication.
Mix it with household trash
For those medications that cannot be disposed of, the FDA instructs you to dispose of the excess pills in the trash. But don’t just throw the bottle out, but follow these steps instead:
- Take excess beans and mix it with an unwanted substance, such as ground coffee, cat litter, or dirt. This reduces the chances of children, teens and thieves getting them out of the trash. It is important that you do not crush the pills or capsules.
- Once you have the unwanted mixture, put it in a container that you can seal like a sandwich bag or an empty can. This prevents the beans from leaking or separating from the mixture.
- Now throw the mixture into the trash.
- Always make sure to scratch any personal information off the bottle and packing label before disposing of it. This step protects your privacy and should be done no matter how you dispose of your medication.
How can you tackle prescription theft in your teen?
Establish an open dialogue
Many teens have misinformation or simply do not know the dangers of prescription drugs and the opportunity associated with addiction and accidental overdose. With the onset of their newfound independence, they likely heard about drugs at school, from friends, or on the Internet, all of which would not be accurate. Regardless of whether you think your child might be stealing your prescription, talking to your child in a supportive way is the only way to make sure he’s educated enough to make his own decisions.
It sounds easy, but ask any parent: Having these kinds of conversations with your teens isn’t easy. While it can be uncomfortable and may cause conflict, it is essential that you have it. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the conversation as productive as possible:
- Make sure the environment you’re talking to feels safe and open.
- Try not to judge or criticize them.
- Be supportive and express how proud you are that they want to talk to you about difficult topics.
- Listen to your teen and allow him to ask questions. While you may want to interrupt the situation and fix it, it is important for them to be able to say how they feel.
- If you find that your teen won’t talk to you, seek help from another adult (relative, teacher, trained care professional, or counsellor).
Tags to look out for
If you think your teen may be stealing or using prescription medications, go back to your home’s security system to review any shots you may have. Additionally, resort your beans to see if any are missing. Most importantly, pay close attention to any changes in your teen’s behavior.
- Significant changes in their behavior or appearance.
- Trouble at school or a decline in academic performance
- Quick to dispute or criticize (ignoring rules, getting into trouble at school, ignoring curfews).
- Isolation from family and friends. It may also appear as a sudden change in social groups and friends.
- Avoiding eye contact and increased demand for privacy.
My Child Steals Medicines: What Now?
You found that your child was stealing your pills. No matter how you find out, you have to address it. There are many at-home drug testing options available to you to test if one or more illegal or prescription drugs are involved. Once you’ve talked to your teen and confirmed his or her drug use, it’s important to know how long, how often, and why.
Finding an alternate outlet for teens who have tried the prescribed pills is a great way to focus their energy and give them goals to work towards. Always maintain a smooth system for counting pills, securing them in safety boxes, and keeping an eye on security cameras. Keeping your home security system up and running is even more important when you have a teen in your home.
If you suspect your teen is trying prescription medications, please visit any of these websites for help: