With still being in the midst of a pandemic, some of our day-to-day activities have drastically changed to accommodate our current practices that are meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., working from home, schooling from home, increase in online shopping, etc.). With this being said, our teens are spending more time at home than ever! This means more screen time (e.g., phones, tv, movies, social media, etc.); less productivity with not having to physically be in a structured environment (like classrooms), which could allow for more distractions; less activity with after school activities being drastically modified or taken out; and sometimes, more time to themselves. Unfortunately, this new normal has created an atmosphere where more teens can start using and becoming addicted to prescription drugs and opioids.
The potential decrease in structured productivity in combination with the increase in time to themselves and exposure to social media has the potential to warp the realities of our youth. This generation is growing up in a time where social media is prominent–life without it is a foreign concept to them. Online or in media (ie., tv shows, movies, etc.), they see celebrities or even their peers making poor choices (i.e., consuming prescription drugs, etc.); however, the actions are glorified as “cool” for the “feeling” they give and the ease of access in comparison to alcohol, weed, vapes, etc. (physically, and legally speaking). Therefore, they want to imitate. They turn to these substances and inevitably become addicted. Additionally, they can fall into feelings of comparisons or feelings of lack with seeing the illusory lifestyles and activities that are portrayed and glorified on social media. Feelings of comparison through the lens that “there is lack” can lead to depression. To cope, they turn to substances and inevitably become addicted.
In order to combat this, we must be fully engaged in the lives of our youth, and talk to them about the dangers that prescription opioids can pose when misused. We must debunk the myth that just because the medication comes from a doctor’s office or pharmacy, it doesn’t have the potential to cause harm. We must create a safe atmosphere where they can express their opinions, points of view, and direct/indirect experiences with the subject… and we, as adults, must make an effort to understand. We must promote healthy choices to them and express disapproval of the behavior of opioid use/misuse. Lastly, we must create a safe physical environment in which we reduce access to medications not intended for them. This means medications are securely locked away and unused or expired drugs are properly disposed of. Let’s commit to our youth staying safe while staying in!