How many adults have a medicine cabinet full of drugs?  Perhaps you’re saving that painkiller your dentist prescribed ‘just in case of emergency’ or the 10 pills for anxiety your doctor gave you for a case of stage fright? Maybe a grandparent has medications for blood pressure or a heart condition that were forgotten about.

Well, a friend recently told me a new term for a not-so-new trend in teen prescription drug use: “salad bowling”.  The concept is simple: teens go to their parents’ medicine cabinet and dump all the drugs into a salad bowl.  At the next party, set the bowl so friends can take a handful.  This trend is dangerous in its own right, but add alcohol to the mix and the consequences can be deadly.

Prescription and over the counter drug use often don’t come up as topics of concern when speaking with parents of teens.  Most parents are (rightly) concerned about other drug use, such as marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol, but the drugs we have at home are often forgotten.  Prescription drugs are every bit as dangerous if taken incorrectly.  They can cause decreases in heart rate and breathing that can lead to death, especially if taken in high amounts or in combination with other drugs and alcohol.  Even drugs that are expired can be extremely dangerous if taken in this way. The medicine cabinet at home (or at the home of a friend) is an easy, inexpensive way for teens to experiment with drug use.  The ‘salad bowl’ trend is definitely not new, I’d just never heard the term before.

So what can a parent do?

  • First, get rid of any medications you’re no longer using. Don’t save them if your doctor is not advising you to continue taking them.  Also be sure to get rid of any medications that are expired. Many pharmacies will take expired and unsued medications to dispose of correctly.
  •  Talk with other family members (such as grandparents or step-parents) or friends where your teen may stay overnight.  Remind them to discard unused medications as well.
  • Have open communication with your teen about drugs and alcohol.  Discuss your expectations of behavior and consequences as well.  If they’re caught using drugs, follow through on your consequences.
  • Check out websites like theantidrug.com for more information specifically for parents of teens and read our other posts of drug use like our recent one on marijuana, for warning signs of substance abuse in teens.