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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Questionable Pills

Q. I found some pills in my teenager's room. Is there a way of identifying them through photographs etc. I would appreciate and help you can give me.

A. Depending on whether these pills are prescribed medications, over-the-counter tablets, or some cooked-up product from the street, you may be able to identify them. The Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) has an extensive photographic identification section for prescribed medications. The PDR is available at most large bookstores and in many libraries; or, go to www.pdr.net.

You could also take a tablet to a commercial analytic laboratory and have them analyze it. But, I think there is a larger issue here that I feel obliged to address. Have you discussed this matter with your teenager? It may be wise to hang on to a tablet for your own reference, but I would encourage you first to ask your son or daughter what these pills are, and what he or she was doing with them. I would try to do this in a non-accusatory and supportive way, so that he or she will not feel that you are launching an FBI investigation, but rather, opening up a dialogue.

Inquiring about alcohol and other drug use would also be timely and important. If it turns out that your teenager is experimenting with drugs of abuse, it would be important to get him or her involved in some substance abuse counseling. This could be done by contacting Narcotics Anonymous or a similar 12-Step program. You can also call the Teen Help national hotline (1-800-637-0701) for more information and assistance.

Since illicit drug use may reflect an unrecognized depressive or anxiety disorder, an evaluation with a mental health professional would probably also be wise. But, all this may be jumping the gun. It's possible that there is a more innocent explanation, and that discussing this with your teenager may clarify the situation.

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July 2001
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