Current prEvents – May 4, 2020 – The Times Argus


What a challenging time for all of us right now with uncertainty and trying to figure out how to do things differently. As difficult as it may be to adjust to having all the family at home, perhaps this can be an opportunity to have various important conversations that will help kids during their adolescence.

Data shows that parents are the number one influence on their child’s relationship with drugs and alcohol. This is a chance to talk early and talk often to provide information and clearly state your family’s guidelines. Two other factors that influence youth use of substances are increased access and a decreased perception of harm. At this time of sheltering in place, homes can be made safer when parents take charge of monitoring the alcohol, tobacco products, marijuana, and prescription drugs that may be present in their homes. Both by modeling healthy habits and by having conversations about substances, parents provide impactful messaging to kids. It’s important for children and teens to hear that their parents disapprove of underage drinking and vaping and that it’s dangerous to take a prescription medication not prescribed to you.

ParentUp is a resource from the Vermont Department of Health that offers information and guides for parents to help their children navigate the challenges of growing up, including making healthy choices regarding alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drugs. Check out to learn more about effective methods of prevention, ways to approach these important conversations, and resources for supporting teens who are struggling.

Many teens report that they obtain prescription drugs not prescribed to them by taking them from the family medicine cabinet. Especially during this time of not being in school or at work, children and families may have more access to medications left around the house. The two best things you can do as a parent to prevent misuse of prescription drugs are:

— Store the medications you currently use in a lock box or locked medicine cabinet. “Pill Pods,” another secure storage method, are keyless lockboxes that come with a randomly preassigned four-digit locking combination, and can hold multiple containers of medicine. Pill pods are available at or can be purchased online and shipped to your home.

— Clean out expired or unused prescription medicines from the home. Under normal circumstances, there are many locations where people can safely dispose of unused medicines. Disposal kiosks are located at CVMC and in police stations and pharmacies in Washington County. The Vermont Department of Health’s “Do Your Part” campaign offers a locator tool on their website to find permanent prescription drug disposal sites throughout the state. The Drug Enforcement Administration hosts National Prescription Drug Take Back Days in the spring and in the fall where people can drop off unwanted medications. Due to COVID-19, the Take Back Day in April was cancelled, and social distancing is preventing people from venturing out to disposal kiosks. A convenient solution is available — free, postage-paid mail back envelopes that can be sent to your home! Up to eight ounces total of medications can be placed in an envelope and dropped in the mail for easy and safe incineration. To have a free mail back envelope sent to you, simply fill out a brief request form on the Vermont Department of Health’s website at When social distancing is not in place, these envelopes are available in the main lobby of Central Vermont Medical Center, in medical providers’ offices, and at libraries, senior centers, and town offices.

Just like alcohol, tobacco or vaping products, and marijuana, prescription drugs can pose risks to children when accessible in the home. Everyone can do their part to help prevent misuse, poisonings, and addiction with these important practices – lock up and secure substances; monitor medicine use and what you have in your home; and safely dispose of expired or unused medications.

Adapting to life during a pandemic, while undeniably challenging, has helped make the concept of prevention more widely understood and respected. Prevention involves looking at data and identifying where risks are, then addressing those risks through specific strategies. For COVID-19, that means staying home, wearing a mask when you must venture outside, washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and modeling this behavior so that your family and community are all on the same page. When translating this to preventing youth use of substances we look to sharing data, raising awareness of these issues, and providing youth, parents, and policy makers with information and specific ways to increase protective factors and build healthy communities for all of us. Vermont is doing so well in so many respects. Keep learning, practice easy steps, continue conversations with your families and friends, and we’ll all be helping our community to stay safe and strong.

Amelia Sherman is the youth resiliency educator with Central Vermont New Directions Coalition and a freelance writer located in Montpelier. Send feedback to