Merlene Davis: Don't be an accidental drug dealer to your kids

No matter how devoted we are to our religious beliefs, how sincere we are about obeying the law, how diligently we monitor our health, some of us adults have unknowingly become suppliers for young people who are abusing prescription drugs.

How? Simply by keeping active and inactive prescription medications in an easily accessible location without thinking about it.

Many of our children, grandchildren and wards have been lured into the trap of using or selling these medications because they don't think they are as dangerous as street drugs.

This was the conclusion of focus groups conducted at 10 Fayette County high schools in the spring of 2010.

When asked, "How wrong do you think it would be for someone to take drugs that require a doctor's prescription, without a doctor prescribing them?" students replied illegal drugs would be worse.

When asked, "How much do you think people risk harm when taking drugs that require a doctor's prescription without a doctor prescribing them?" and "Do you feel that prescription drugs (even without a prescription) are safer than illegal drugs?" 70 percent of the students said because the medications were prescribed by a doctor and the federal government regulates those drugs, prescription medications were safer than illegal drugs.

When asked how aware parents are of the problem, the students said parents are more focused on alcohol and illegal drugs. Sharon Tankersley, Drug Free Communities Project coordinator for the Fayette County Mayor's Alliance on Substance Abuse, said that picture must change.

"We want to educate people, particularly parents, about the issues," she said. "Many don't know how close to their front yard this is."

A campaign for Operation UNITE, which fights illegal drug use in Kentucky's Fifth Congressional District, calls parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and guardians "accidental dealers," because young people get drugs from our medicine cabinets.

Do you think that label is harsh? Well, the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Survey, which is conducted statewide every two years, asks students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades what they are doing.

KIP found that last year in Fayette County, 1 percent of the sixth-graders, 2 percent of eighth-graders, 5 percent of 10th-graders and 7 percent of 12th-graders had taken prescription drugs that had not been prescribed for them. The numbers were only slightly different statewide.

What is the easiest place for them to get those drugs? Most of the 10 Fayette County focus groups said our medicine cabinets, friends at school and on the streets.

Parenting just got a little harder, didn't it? Just as we had to become more aware of our children's access to the Internet, we must now become more aware of other temptations we leave unguarded around our homes.

To help us in that regard, the Mayor's Alliance is conducting a survey for adults. The alliance, a group open to anyone wanting to reduce substance abuse, created the online survey aimed at awakening us from our stupor.

The results "will help us to make good choices on how to target adult education," Tankersley said.

The survey, which should take you no more than 10 minutes to complete, has a deadline of Dec. 30, and the data will be analyzed early next year. There will be a follow-up report in the spring. In the meantime, Tankersley wants us to be more vigilant in how we store prescription medications.

"Always be mindful of where they are stored," Tankersley said. "Lock them away. More and more of us are vulnerable to drug seekers. That is a real danger in today's time."

If you need to dispose of medications now, Tankersley recommended grinding the pills in a plastic bag, adding hot water to it and then either used coffee grinds or kitty litter before disposing them in the garbage. And, by all means, keep track of the number of pills in your prescription. If your child knows you are attentive, taking them is less attractive.

"It takes a little extra effort," Tankersley said. "You may wish you had one day and it may be too late."

Having a child addicted to pills is no fun. I know.

Take the survey at