Dangers in the Medicine Cabinet

Michael Jackson’s Death is a Tragic Reminder to Keep Prescriptions Out of the Hands of Children
By Stephanie Felzenberg, Editor of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter.

Just like Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger, it seems likely that the death of Michael Jackson may have been caused by prescription drugs. It is a tragic reminder that medication can be lethal when misused and we must keep children protected from both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

In the United States, it is estimated that about 2,500 teens daily abuse prescription “legal” drugs for the first time. Most of them get those drugs from the family medicine cabinet.

According to the 2008 Monitoring the Future survey, 15.4% of high school seniors have used prescriptions and over the counter medications found in their homes for non-medical purposes in the past month.

According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America one in five teens has abused a prescription pain medication. One in five teens report they have abused prescription stimulants and tranquilizers. One in ten teens has abused cough medicine.

Deepak Chopra, a new age guru who is a trained cardiologist explains, “The number-one cause of drug addiction in the world, and particularly in the United States, is not street drugs but medical prescriptions given legally by physicians.”

After surgery or dental work many patients are prescribed narcotic pain killers. In fact, thousands of Americans in chronic pain safely take prescribed narcotic pain killers daily. The prescribing of narcotics is common and useful when used properly by the patient.

But, if after a surgery or dental work a patient is prescribed narcotics and only take a few pills, they ought to discard the rest. No point in keeping dangerous narcotics in a home with children. Before discarding the narcotics remove the labels on the prescription to discourage teens finding the drugs in the garbage and to protect the patient from identity theft. Those addicted to drugs may search trash cans to find names of others to fill narcotic prescriptions.

If someone in the household is taking pain killers, tranquilizers, stimulants, or cough medicine adults must secure medications. The bathroom medicine cabinet is the first place kids will look for drugs. Teens wanting to get “high” will visit the homes of friends, ask to use the bathroom, and go straight for the medicine cabinet. Remove prescription medications from the family medicine cabinet and hide or secure them in a safe place. Even some over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup containing dextromethorphan, should also be secured in a safe location.

The Monitoring the Future survey found that most teens do not consider prescription or over-the-counter drugs as dangerous as illicit drugs, because they are legal and are prescribed by a doctor. Therefore, the best way to prevent teen abuse of drugs is to sit down and talk with them.

According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America parents must explain to their children that pharmaceuticals taken without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can be just as dangerous as taking illicit drugs or alcohol. Children are known take medication to get “high” at as young as 12-years-old. So, the discussion about the dangers of prescription medications should start when children are young.

See how to properly administer children medicine by clicking here. To review au pair and nanny proper medical practices can be found by clicking here. Visit the AntiDrug web site for more tips to prevent prescription drug abuse.

1. http://www.TheAntiDrug.com
2. http://www.timetotalk.org/
3. The Monitoring the Future Survey included 46,348 students from 386 public and private schools in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For additional information regarding the Monitoring the Future study, please e-mail MTFinfo@isr.umich.edu.

Does the family you work for keep medications in the medicine cabinet? Do you feel comfortable asking them to move medications after reading this article?


  1. Hiding things from kids doesn't work. Kids always find the porno magazines, money, or a gun. We have to actually lock the meds somewhere so I suppose a safety box?The family I work for keeps the meds in the medicine cabinet probably because even the adult visitors would know to look there if they needed anything. I will definitely mention this article to them my employers and say we should store them behind lock and key. So sad. Sad part of MJ is that rumors say the doctor may have actually given MJ the lethal dose. But we will see…

  2. I did not know that addiction to prescription medication is the number one cause of addiction in the world. I realize I am not the only one. I am a nanny and would never try illegal drugs.I had an addiction to pain medication after a wisdom tooth extraction. As a nanny I did not have enough medical insurance to go to a rehab. My parents could not afford it either. I went on disability for 6 months. No doctors would help me get off the medication. After years of trying to get off the medication myself I finally found just a regular internest that was willing to help me do it myself without going to a rehab. The doctor finally helped me by giving me blood pressure medication and muscle relaxants to take while reducing the pain killer.It just took about ten days and I was off.I am telling you good people who would never ever break the law end up and narcotics anonymous meetings and lose jobs and homes and friends and family due to pain and getting addicted to the medication the doctors prescribe. I would never ever break the law or take illegal drugs. It happens to the best of us.God bless MJ. I hope his after life was not as tragic as his life on earth.

  3. I like to consider myself a above average knowledgable nanny yet I never thought to move medication from the medicine cabinet. I have seen the effective commercials warning against prescription drug use for teens but still did not think of moving medication from the medicine cabinet.Thanks for posting this Steph. Thanks for posting the other resources too lik antidrug web site and timetotalk web site. I def will mention to parents that I read this and had not thought of it before but we really need to keep meds locked away. Currently meds are out of reach but obviously kids can use stools. I like comment above mentions kids find hidden things. It's so true of bday gifts and xmas gifts too. If they want it they find it. Scary stats.

  4. I am posting here about your posts on facebook are right about the nanny saying she pumped Michael Jackson's stomach. Too weird. I agree, I don't know if nannies know how to pump stomachs. I want to encourage nannies that read this blog to follow your newsletter on facebook because you post a lot there you do not post here.In the meantime, both in my home and at the home I work in we put medicine in the medicine cabinet. Good to post this info.Deidre

  5. Three high profile names to die from prescription drugs in just a few years. Pain killers are no joke.

  6. My grandmother had knee surgery and in a mere week of taking percoet prescribed by her doctor became addicted to pain killers. Little old granny!! How embarassing for a grandmother to be told by the doctor to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings! So humiliating. Yet, once she went she did not meet one person that attended that was a recreational drug user. They had tragic stories about being in car accidents, falling off ladders, work injuries, and common surgeries like she had. They lose their jobs and their dignity.Thanks for posting this and I will definitely talk to parents about moving medications out of the medicine cabinet. Only band aids and Qtips and vaseline will remain.Beth, San Diego

  7. This was a great post and the Michael Jackson story can be a valuable teachable moment about the issue of over-the-counter or prescription medicine abuse. Many parents and caregivers who look after children aren’t aware of this type of drug abuse, so thank you for providing your readers with this valuable information to ensure more people know what to look for. If anyone is interested, I'd invite them to check out the Stop Medicine Abuse web site at StopMedicineAbuse.org for more related resources on the topic of teen medicine abuse. The site has various sources of information and tools, such as free fliers and pamphlets, as well as the Dose of Prevention Toolkit for community members looking to bring more awareness to the fight against OTC cough medicine abuse. (Disclosure: I work for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the organization that created the Stop Medicine Abuse program and site.)

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