keep drugs and alcohol out of the reach of children

Out of Reach

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Boulder County parents and caregivers care about their kids. They show it by keeping marijuana, prescriptions, and alcohol out of reach.

Whatever it is – dishwasher pods, drain cleaner, even gluten – we keep it away from our kids if we know it can hurt them. Marijuana, alcohol, and prescriptions drugs can be dangerous too!

The Risk

In Colorado, more than 1,200 young children are brought to the emergency room each year because they got into marijuana, medicines, and alcohol that were left within reach. Over 70% of the visits are due to ingesting pharmaceutical drugs (including over-the-counter drugs). [Emergency department visits in Colorado hospitals that mention accidental poisoning. Colorado residents younger than six years of age, treated and released between January 2014 – September 2015.]

Unintentional Overdose

Among young children:

  • 95% of unintentional medication overdose visits to emergency departments are caused by a child ingesting medication while unsupervised.
  • Only about 5% are due to dosing errors made by caregivers.
  • National Child Poisoning Report

Young Children

A national study of calls to poison control centers from January 2000 through December 2015 found that:

  • Most poisonings occurred among children younger than five years of age (60%) followed by teenagers (30%).
  • Medications leading to the most calls to poison control centers were hydrocodone (29%), oxycodone (18%), and codeine (17%).

Older Kids

Among teenagers:

Tips & Conversation Starters


Safe Storage

Keep prescription and other medicines, marijuana, and alcohol out of reach.

  • Children are curious and put all sorts of things in their mouths. Pick a storage place in your home that children cannot reach or see. Different families will have different places. Walk around your house and decide on the safest place to keep your alcohol, marijuana, prescription medicines, and vitamins. Even though many safe storage containers have safety caps, children may be able to open them.

Put medicines away after each use.

  • This includes medicines and vitamins you use every day. Never leave medicine out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give it again in a few hours.

Make sure the safety cap is locked.

  • Always relock the cap on a medicine bottle. If the bottle has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click or cannot twist anymore.
  • Use the child safe packaging that comes with medication or marijuana.

Be prepared in case of an emergency.

  • Call Rocky Mountain Poison Control at 222.1222 right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin, even if you are not completely sure.
  • Program the number into your phones so you will have it when you need it.

Safely dispose of them if you don’t need them.

  • It’s tempting to keep medications and alcohol that might be needed in the future. But, this leaves them available for misuse.
  • Safely dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements by mixing them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and throwing them away or take them to a take-back event. You can also turn them in at a local take-back program or during National Drug Take-Back events.
  • Find locations in Boulder County for safe disposal of unwanted medications and syringes.

Talk About It

When kids don’t feel comfortable talking to parents or grandparents, they’ll seek answers elsewhere, even if their sources are unreliable. Kids who aren’t properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs.

Be a role model for your kids. Your views and behavior related to marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs can strongly influence how they think about them.

Teach your children about medicine safety.

  • Teach your children about the danger of medicines not used properly and why you or a trusted adult must be the one to give it to them.
  • Never refer to medication as candy, even if they don’t like to take their medicine.

Tell your family, including grandparents, about medicine safety.

  • Ask family members, houseguests, and other visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicine in out of reach when they are in your home.

Start talking early (preschool to age 7).

  • Setting the groundwork early about why and when cough or fever medicine, and even vitamins should be given sets the ground work for later discussions. Get tips for what to say.

Keep talking into adolescence and teen years.

  • As kids grow older, ask them what they think about marijuana, prescription drugs, and alcohol. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you’re more likely to get an honest response. Get tips for what to say.
  • Stick with it. Evidence shows that when parents reduce the time discussing alcohol use and its associated dangers with their kids, the more likely that they’re kids will start trying it.

Set a Good Example

Parent (and grandparent) behavior is a model for behavioral expectations for our children. Show our kids that we practice what we preach.

Avoid excess.

  • Be aware of what you’re modeling. Try not to drink or smoke every night if you don’t want your children to do the same.
  • Always offer guests non-alcoholic drinks along with alcohol to show that what you drink is optional.
  • If you take a lot of vitamins or tablets yourself, do so discreetly. Do not model taking prescription drugs not as prescribed.

Don’t allow sips or tastes.

  • Research shows a strong association between parents who were in favor of allowing their children to taste alcohol and children’s subsequent alcohol use. Introduction to alcohol is a primary risk factor for problem drinking during adolescence.
  • Give clear, consistent messages about how you feel about drug use and alcohol consumption, and what is acceptable in your family.

Demonstrate healthy coping and celebration strategies.

  • Show your child healthy ways of dealing with the ups and downs of life (challenges, celebrations) beyond drinking alcohol, taking pills, and using marijuana.

Connect with kids and demonstrate their worth.

  • Foster self-esteem by giving your kids quality time each day where you can solely focus on them, to talk, to play a game, go for a walk, offer praise and encouragement, set achievable tasks and tell them how much you love them.

Contact Us

Community Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)

Main: 303-413-7017
Submit a question


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