July 09, 2013 —

Today, the journey children take from a child to a tween to a teen has been expedited greatly by technology. The digital access that kids have today is like growing up in the Jetsons era only a hundred times faster.  I have even heard that many parents are having the "tech talk,” about online safety with their children before they have the "sex talk."  This is a strong indicator of just how important our cyber-life has become in our society today.

It is important to note, that drug dealers have figured this out too. You may not be aware that your teen can purchase drugs illegally from online pharmacies, unfortunately, rather easily.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people in America die from an overdose of prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined.  This is why organizations like the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and its campaign StopMedicineAbuse are so important in continuing to educate parents and create awareness about a teen's access to drugs both in your home and online. 

The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) recently released a study that cited that 31 percent of students take prescription drugs to get through finals. That is 1 in 3 students that obtain these drugs without a prescription from a doctor. The study also noted that 15 percent of students have or have a friend that has ordered these drugs online and 71 percent of these students’ parents believe it is common for students to share prescription drugs.

Prescription drug use and over-the-counter medicine use is an issue that we need to take very seriously, and it starts from the moment your child is old enough to have their own keypad; whether it comes in the form of a cell phone or a computer.  Parents need to realize that their children are now potentially open targets to online drug dealers.

Most parents know that communication is key to prevention.  Keeping an open dialog with your child is crucial in helping them make the best choices that can affect their future.

Let's look at some tips that parents may not be as familiar with:

  • Do you know what your teen is saying?  Listen or watch on texts or emails for code words for certain drug lingo. Skittling, Tussing, Skittles, Robo-tripping, Red Devils, Velvet, Triple C, C-C-C-, Robotard are some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse.  Weed, Pot, Ganja, Mary Jane, Grass, Chronic, Buds, Blunt, Hootch, Jive stick, Ace, Spliff, Skunk, Smoke, Dubie, Flower, Zig Zag are all slang for marijuana.
  • Monitor, monitor, monitor. You are the parent, you pay the bills, you are allowed to view cell phone calls, text messages, social networking sites, computer history, etc.  Especially if you suspect negative behavior, safety always trumps privacy.
  • Online pharmacies. Online pharmacies are back in the news and should be a huge concern for parents of teenagers.  Ryan's Cause is a tragic example of how easy it is to obtain illegal drugs online and the deadly consequences of this type of behavior. 

Teens are tech savvy, and so are these online drug dealers.  Leave a door open, and they will find a way in.  Be an educated parent – you will have healthier and safer teenagers as a result.

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She is the founder of Parents' Universal Resource Experts, Inc., which has helped thousands of families since 2001 with at-risk teenagers. Her first book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen continues to be resource for many parents raising teens today. Follow Sue on Twitter and join her on Facebook.