By Jenny Stolka | Over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs are increasingly abused because they are available and easily accessible to all ages. If each of us takes the opportunity to educate ourselves, we can begin to affect this progressive, scary, and deadly trend of over-the-counter misuse and prescription drug abuse. Parents and Grandparents:  You walk into a bathroom where you find your child or grandchild looking through the medicine cabinet. You ask what she needs and get a typical teenager response… “Nothing.”  What you may not realize is that they could be looking for over-the-counter medications or prescriptions that they either plan on taking or sharing with friends at the next party.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!  Talk with them immediately about the dangers of medications when they are not taken correctly or as directed by a physician.  Talk with them about never taking medications that aren’t prescribed to them directly. Talk with them about the risk they would be taking of becoming addicted to these medications. Misusing over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as using an illegal drug.

Retailers:  You have a customer come up to your register with multiple cough syrups and pills or is a recurring customer that buys multiple over-the-counter products each time he comes in. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!  Put into practice the things you learned or can learn from the Helping Services online Over-the-Counter training.  Be prepared: Get trained and know the store policy on refusing a sale or reporting suspicious behavior to management and law enforcement. If you don’t have a policy in place, work on one. Be aware. Is there suspicious behavior such a stealing, people under the influence, or buying multiple products?  Look for signs. How many products is he buying, how often, and in what combinations? It is your job as a retailer to help reduce access to those who misuse these products. If you experience this behavior or warning signs, work with your management team to determine what your policy will be on how to handle these situations.

Community Members: You pick up the weekly newspaper to find out a local 12-year-old has overdosed on a combination of over-the-counter medications.  You can’t believe it, and you really can’t believe it happened this close to home.  Unfortunately, experimentation with these products does not discriminate.  Tweens, teenagers, adults, and the elderly are testing their limits with over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs either out of curiosity or in order to cope with whatever is happening in life. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!  Attend a local substance abuse coalition to educate yourself or learn how you can take part in the next drug drop-off event. Talk with your family and friends who may be using these medications improperly and assist them in getting the help they need to make a change–before it’s too late. For more education or to help create awareness on over-the-counter medications misuse or prescription drug abuse, visit www.helpingservices.org/otc or attend your county’s next substance abuse coalition meeting.

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