Prescription drugs can be just as harmful as street drugs if used outside their prescribed parameters. And not only are they dangerous when incorrectly used, they're also illegal. You may not be used to thinking of prescription drugs as illegal, but in fact any use that's not according to the prescription (for example, taking the medication for longer than prescribed) is illegal. The charges that illegal use incurs may vary by state, but best practices for avoiding prescription drug abuse in your family can be applied throughout the country. Here are a few tips for helping your children and teenagers cultivate responsible use of their prescription drugs.

1. Set a good example

Some prescription drug abuse happens intentionally, but some comes about through ignorance or carelessness. Teaching your children about safe and legal prescription use can involve education (making sure they're apprised of the legalities and requirements of prescription drug use), but even more important is the example you set. Being meticulous about prescription use yourself can help children realize that it's an important matter.

2. Facilitate disposal

Some people may not realize that it's illegal to keep extra pills after your treatment has run its course. It may seem wasteful to simply discard prescription pills after finishing up the treatment, especially if they're expensive ones, but there's really nothing you can legally do with them after the treatment's over other than disposing of them. Make sure your kids learn how and where to correctly dispose of various prescription drugs (and help them do so if needed) and, of course, set a good example by regularly doing so with your own excess pills.

3. Keep them accountable

No matter how responsible and dependable your teenagers are on their own, having accountability to a parent can make it easier to use medications correctly. For one thing, it can be easier to remember to keep track of medication use if they know you're going to ask about it, and it can also be easier to resist peer pressure if they can use your oversight as an excuse not to "share" their medications with friends who may think prescription abuse is no big deal. Be careful not to come across as controlling, though, or you may simply encourage teenagers to push back.

These three tips will help you keep your family on track with prescription drug safety by increasing awareness of prescription drug issues and legalities, monitoring the use of prescriptions, and overseeing safe and legal disposal. If you run into a drug abuse problem or criminal charge, seek the help of a drug offense attorney.