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How Parents Can Get Informed

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

John Walters, who heads the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, says many parents and schools have begun programs to alert kids to the dangers of taking drugs that were not prescribed for them. As part of its educational effort, the office has posted a tutorial for parents, called Digital Technology 101 with primers on social networking, instant messaging and cellphones so parents can understand the technology kids are using.

If you intercept a text message that reads "take your medicine," that's not necessarily an indication of abuse. For example, the Cincinnati Children's Hospital recently started a text messaging program for teens with asthma after research showed that only eight out of 100 teen patients were fully compliant with their medicine. Now, teens can sign up for reminders.

"So far," says Maria Britto, head of the hospital's Asthma Innovation Lab, "teens like the system and say it does work as a reminder to take their drugs."

Kathy Woodward of Children's National Medical Center says she would like to implement a text messaging system. Meanwhile, she shows teens how to program their own phones for some reminders and how to shake loose from drug company marketing.

"The companies offer to send reminders, but I've told my patients they can just set the alarm on their phones themselves," Woodward says.

And what can parents do about drug ads aimed at teens?

Sharon Levy, director of the adolescent substance abuse program at Children's Hospital Boston, suggests parents use drug ads as "teachable moments."

"If you're watching TV together and a drug ad comes on, consider talking about it," Levy says, "how to understand the risks as well as the benefits."

-- Francesca Lunzer Kritz

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