Have you noticed changes in your child's behavior? Or does he or she have friends that you suspect might be abusing prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs? Whatever the reason don't ignore the issue.

The problem is more common than most parents or guardians think. According to TheAntiDrug.com, more teens are abusing prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2008, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12-17 reported abusing prescription drugs. And among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drugs of choice.

The website adds that there are many types of prescription drugs abused by teenagers, most being painkillers, steroids and depressants, such as those drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, such as cough and cold remedies, are also becoming more common among youth.

"We want all families to be made aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse," said Christopher Czapla, principal, Tamaqua Area Middle School, during a prescription drug abuse seminar Tuesday evening in the school's auditorium.

"Children and teens are able to get a hold of prescription medications, because parents, grandparents and other family members don't take the time to lock up their medications," said Janene Holter, senior supervisory special agent of the Office of Pennsylvania's Attorney General.

Holter alsoo talked about "RX Consequences," a new educational program from the Office of Attorney General, created to focus on the growing problem of prescription drug abuse among teenagers. Her presentation featured a video story of a young man whose dependence on prescription drugs led him down an unexpected path of destruction.

"This presentation is to educate parents and students on the dangers of using prescription drugs that are not prescribed to you," said Holter.

"I encourage everyone with old or unused medications to participate in local drop off initiatives."

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) routinely schedules National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days to provide residents an opportunity to properly dispose of subsequently accumulated, unwanted and unused prescription drugs. The DEA's website states that On April 28, citizens turned in a record-breaking 552,161 pounds (276 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,659 takeback sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. In all four days of the initiative, approximately 1.5 million pounds (774 tons) of medication was removed from circulation.

"Our takeback events highlight the problems related to prescription drug abuse and give our citizens an opportunity to contribute to the solution. These events are only made possible through the dedicated work and commitment of our state, federal, local, and tribal partners and DEA thanks each and every one of them for their efforts on behalf of the American people," said DEA administrator Michele M. Leonhart following a past event.

For more information, call (800) 882-9539 or Pennsylvania GS Regina Spaddy at (215) 238-5160.

The site adds that every day 2,500 youths age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens who wouldn't otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs. And not many parents are talking to them about it, even though teens report that parental disapproval is a powerful way to keep them away from drugs.

Holter stated that there are serious health risks related to abuse of prescription drugs. A single large dose of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty or death. Stimulant abuse can commonly lead to hostility or paranoia, or the potential for heart system failure or fatal seizures. Even in small doses, depressants and painkillers have effects on motor skills, judgment and ability to learn.

The site continues by saying the abuse of OTC cough and cold remedies cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, coma and even death. Many teens report mixing prescription drugs, OTC drugs and alcohol. Using these drugs in combination can cause respiratory failure or death.

For more information about prescription drug abuse, visitors can go to a number of resourceful websites, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agency, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "The Anti-Drug" and "Lock the Cabinet."

"If you suspect your child is abusing prescription or OTC drugs," Holter added, "the first step is to open the lines of communication."