As new parents, we all make checklists, research products and childproof our homes with the sole goal of protecting our children from harm. Then, when our kids are five or six, we start to return our homes “back to normal.” After all, we’ve taught them well and they’re not babies anymore. And most kids move smoothly through childhood with little more than the few minor bumps and bruises that come from being a kid. But then, before we know it, they’re teenagers and facing an entirely new type of threat.

The most widely abused substances among 12- and 13-year-olds aren’t tobacco, alcohol or marijuana, but rather prescription medications. Eighty percent of heroin users started down the road to addiction with prescription painkillers, and 90 percent of abusers began as teens. And studies show that death by opioid overdose has nearly tripled for children in recent years, and that the number-one source of pills is the family medicine cabinet. “Pilfering” of one or two pills at a time can rapidly progress from experimentation, to abuse, to addiction — in as few as five doses.

The transition from childhood to young adulthood is a time when young people are naturally inclined toward rebellion and impulse, and are susceptible to peer pressure. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to protect your child from the scourge of opioid addiction:

  • Talk frankly with your kids about the dangers of prescription-drug use

  • Secure all opioid and other potentially habit-forming prescriptions in locking pill bottles

  • Encourage your legislators to update the 50-year-old child-resistant regulations to require locking bottles for opioids

  • Tell your friends, neighbors and relatives to secure their prescriptions

  • Safely dispose of unused medication

Teenagers may have outgrown the need for baby gates, but that doesn’t mean they have outgrown the need for your protection. As new parents, we spend an average of $1,200 to childproof our homes because we will do whatever it takes to protect our kids. You can continue to protect them with a $10 investment in a locking pill bottle to teen-proof your medicine cabinet.