Teaching Medication Safety to Teenagers

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My son left for college in August.  When he left, I sent him with a large box of over the counter medications.  I also shared dozens of medication safety tips with him.  From reading the labels to checking expiration dates, I told him as much as I could. Since I spent 15 years as a pharmacy technician, medication safety is a very big issue for me.  However, when he came down with his first serious cold, we had a medication scare that I never would have thought we’d have!

This incident really scared us. So, when I was asked to share information about medication safety for the Food and Drug Administration, I thought it would be a great fit.

Teenager graduating

Teaching Teens about Drug Safety Takes Time!

My son did the right thing when he got sick and he called mom for advice.  However, I made the mistake of telling him what to take without WRITING IT DOWN! And for 2 days that boy took twice as much cough suppressant as he was supposed to.

Luckily, I checked in with him regularly about his symptoms and we realized his mistake quickly.  I learned my lesson.  From now on, all directions will be sent via email so he can refer to the actual written instructions.  Luckily, he didn’t have any side affects but I think he was scared when he found out.  It was an eye opening moment when he realized how complicated medication safety can really be.

Teaching Medication Safety to Teenagers

Medication Safety Tips for Your Teen

Want to teach your teenagers about drug safety?  Share these important tips with them, especially if they are going to be away at college:

  • Never share your medication with friends.  Make sure they understand the difference between giving a friend a couple of ibuprofen for a headache and sharing their prescription drugs.
  • Do not take other people’s prescription medications.  What works for one person may not be safe for you.
  • Read the active ingredient list.  This is a vital part of teaching medication safety to teens.  They should only take one medicine with the same kind of active ingredient at a time.  This was the issue my son had, even though I had TOLD him that.  Apparently, he wasn’t really listening.  Surprise, surprise!
  • Ask for help.  Whether you call your parents or the advice line at the college health center, ask for help if you have questions.
  • Only treat symptoms when necessary.  Not every sniffle or upset stomach needs medication.  Teach your teens about non drug therapy methods of treating minor illnesses.
  • Read the dosing instruction.  Drug safety depends on taking only the amount you really need.  Every time they buy a new box, they need to read the label.  Product packaging changes regularly.  Some medications are incredibly dangerous if you take too much.

college teenagers

Loperamide Safety in Teens: Talk to them!

The active ingredient loperamide is found in many OTC (over the counter) diarrhea relief products. If used in recommended doses, it is completely safe. However, if taken in large doses, it mimics the effects (high) of opioids.  There are several cases of teenagers using such products to get “high”.

Make sure teens understand that diarrhea symptoms can be masked by loperamide, however, it really doesn’t fix the underlying cause of stomach upset.  Parents should beware of the potential for abuse of any over the counter products containing loperamide.  And they need to have a very up front and honest conversation about this concern with their teenagers.

The FDA recently issued a letter asking retailers to stop selling large sizes of products that include loperamide.  Some are complying, but it’s not mandatory yet.  Parents can NOT rely on the FDA or pharmacy personnel to start teaching medication safety to teenagers. That is OUR job, and it is an incredibly important  one! Check labels when purchasing diarrhea relief medications.  You  need to know what your family is taking. For more information about loperamide safety, head over to FDA.gov.

Have you had a medication safety conversation with your teenager yet?

NOTE: Please consult your physician for any further medical advice!

 

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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke!

Concerned about drug safety when your college kid gets sick far away from  home?  Here are some tips for teaching medication safety to teenagers.

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