Teen suicide rates rising: Prescription drug overdose to blame

AMARILLO, Texas---More teens are committing suicide across Texas and it's raising concerns among poison control experts here in the Panhandle.

More than 18,000 Texas Teens took their life in 2011.

Nearly a quarter of those deaths occurred right here in the Panhandle.

Prescription overdose is now the second leading cause of death among teens in the U-S following motor vehicle fatalities.

"We see many overdoses on pain medication and that's something we really want to encourage people to get out of their medication cabinets if they are not using it," Ronica Farrar with the Texas Panhandle Poison Center said.

Both intentional and accidental deaths from abuse of painkiller like Vicodin have skyrocketed.

Many teens attribute the pill popping to stress and the desire to fit in among their peers.

We're told they're obtaining the drugs not through illegal "pill shopping" or friends, but through family members.

"Accessibility is a problem," Farrar said. "If we can make these medications less accessible, it would help decrease the trend."

Poison control says often times teens gain access to drugs by combing through medicine cabinets at home.

"We want parents to inventory their medication cabinets," Melynn Huntley with Safe Schools/Health Students recently told NewsChannel 10. "Parents need to know exactly what is in the pill bottles and do a count as to how many pills are in each bottle."

She says teens will usually avoid taking the entire bottle and instead will slip one or two pills out at a time.

Academic, social and family pressure may also be driving teens to experiment with dangerous drugs.

Now more than ever, we're told teenagers are mixing painkillers with alcohol which can further bolster side effects.

Parents are urged to talk with their teens about the dangers involved with taking prescription medication.

The best way to keep drugs from ending up in the wrong hands is to clean out your medicine cabinet every few months.

The Texas Panhandle Poison Center also offers a medication clean out program where residents can drop off their unused pills free of charge.

For more information about that program, call 351.5626.