I've wanted to report on the problem of kids and prescription drugs for a while, going back to my days at NBC. It's one of those stories that every parent has a stake in – but so few actually do anything about it. The statistics are alarming: only about HALF of parents have any in-depth conversation with their kids about drugs. And only about a THIRD even bring up the subject of prescription drugs.
I didn't want to be one of those statistics, so I decided to make this a "teachable moment" in my own family.
So a few weeks back, as I was conducting interviews for this series, I broached the subject with my two daughters, who are 16 and 11. We were having dinner and of course, the series gave me the perfect icebreaker. (And you could even it use it as one yourself: "Hey, I saw this really interesting series on the CBS Evening News I wanted to tell you about...")
After explaning what I was working on, I asked them if they had ever heard of kids abusing prescription drugs like painkillers and Ritalin. My youngest daughter hadn't, but my 16-year-old year old immediately piped in with "Yes! I saw that on Law and Order SVU!" Who said TV doesn't teach kids anything? We talked about "Pharm" parties..where kids throw all sorts of pills in a bowl and take whatever they grab, "stacking" when kids become as one expert told us "junior chemists" and take a number of different pills in succession to counter the effects of what they took before…and about the highly addictive qualities of drugs like oxycontin, that one police chief told me was as addictive as heroin. They both agreed that this all sounded very scary and more importantly, very stupid. I hope they will always feel that way.
This led to a conversation about the stupidity of smoking, which is something that should be talked about early and often. I also made sure my medicine cabinet didn't have any pills that I'd been prescribed in the past that could potentially be abused.
My fervent hope is that many parents who watched our series will take some time to talk to their kids. I know I'm really glad I did. I hope their good judgement will last long after the conversation ended. I'm crossing my fingers.