August has arrived, which means panic is setting in for many families as they pack up their high school graduate and send them off to college. Pinterest-driven dorm room goals shift much of the focus (at least for girls) to inspirational quotes, photo displays and twinkling lights. Mothers alternate between doing everything for their “baby” one last time, to cramming in last minute instructions on washing clothes and paying attention to car maintenance. As a college physician, I’d like to add two important items to your shopping list (if your child takes any medications on a regular basis…prescription or not):
Why do kids need an “old person’s” medication dispenser? The same reason that birth control pills come labeled by the day! Taking medications can be so routine that we often do not pay full attention to what we are doing as we pop in the daily antihistamine (or vitamin, or whatever). How many times have you finished brushing your teeth, then wondered- wait, did I take my pill yet? If your pills are in a day-labeled container, you have your answer. If they are in a bottle…you have to guess. This is particularly an issue for freshmen college students, because in many households, parents set out the medications each morning with breakfast…which means that students who have not been in charge of their own medications have not had to create this habit on their own. I regularly see young people who are having side effects because they accidentally took their ADD medication twice in one morning (especially when have an early class, then go back and sleep before their next class, and basically repeat their morning routine when they wake up the second time). On the opposite end, students who take medications for depression or anxiety often forget to take their medications (especially when they are feeling fine), but then deal with aches, pains and brain “fuzziness” the next day that they may not even realize is from skipping a pill. Using these simple day-labeled boxes takes the guesswork out of whether or not you have taken your pills.
Keeping prescription medications- especially ADD meds- in a lock box reduces the temptation for others to “borrow” any pills. Unfortunately, ADD medications are abused as “study aids” and “weight loss pills” on most campuses. Let me note here that it is a FELONY to buy or sell these drugs- even ONE pill to ONE “friend”. WARN YOUR CHILD. If your student takes ADD medications, encourage them to keep these prescriptions in a locked box, tucked away in their room. Once a week, they can fill their daily dispenser, and keep that in a safe (preferably locked) but easily accessible place, like a locked desk drawer. For girls- there are cute med boxes that look like make up pouches or wallets- and some even have a spot to keep a copy of your insurance card. By the way…if you have a senior in high school, consider putting them in charge of their medications in this same fashion, so next year isn’t so challenging!