This unsupervised access increases the risk of recreational use, substance abuse and overdose, according to the study, published by University of Michigan researchers.
“It is critical that clinicians educate parents and patients about the importance of proper storage and disposal of medications, particularly those with abuse potential,” said the study’s lead author, Paula Ross-Durow, Ph.D.
Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher, according to a July 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs.
For the study, researchers sought to determine teens’ access to their own prescribed medications, specifically pain, stimulant, anti-anxiety and sedative drugs that are federally controlled.
Among teens who reported that the storage of their medications was supervised, more than half described accessible locations, such as a cabinet or drawer in the kitchen or bathroom, or on a countertop.
Researchers found the findings alarming given that the participants were in the 8th and 9th grades with a mean age of 14.1 years.
“The lack of parental supervision and proper storage of medicines prescribed to adolescents may facilitate (their) nonmedical use of these medications, putting them at risk for poisoning or overdose,” said Ross-Durow, a research investigator at the U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
Also, without proper storage or supervision, teens might be more likely to give or sell them to others, the researchers said.
During the five-year study, researchers interviewed more than 500 teens who had their parents’ consent. They responded to questions such as what medications were prescribed by a medical or dental professional, where in the home the drugs were stored, and whether access to these medications had been supervised.
The researchers noted that some parents and guardians may not believe that their children would engage in nonmedical use and, therefore, do not take steps to secure their prescription drugs.
Source: University of Michigan