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2012 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 17, No. 1
March 2012

Family-Centered CPS Assessments of Prescription Drug Use

Given the risks associated with prescription drugs, it can be tempting to focus on uncovering misuse or deceit, rather than working from a family-centered, strengths-based perspective. Guard against this error.

If someone in a family is taking a prescription drug, it is important to first understand what need that person is trying to meet with that drug, and how well it is working for the family as a whole. Whether the prescription is being used correctly or incorrectly, legally or illegally, you will have a hard time helping the family make changes if you don’t understand the motivation behind the drug use.

When talking with families, explain why you’re asking for certain kinds of information. This can build a foundation of trust and respect if you convey to parents that you are trying to understand the needs of everyone in the family, and to help them meet their needs in the safest and best way possible.

When talking with families about their use of prescription drugs, ask what medication is taken and how often, what need it is meeting (e.g., fight pain, treat illness), what education was provided by the physician, and whether the parent has concerns about the medicine. Ask how well the drug is meeting the need.

Educate parents through the interview process by sharing information about safety risk factors you see (e.g., drug storage), and by showing parents how to keep medications out of children’s reach.

Engage the parent in safety planning. Use strength-based questions to learn about social supports, coping skills, and what’s going well for the family.

Ask yourself what risk factors the parent may have for abusing or misusing prescription drugs. Use a brief assessment tool (such as CAGE or UNCOPE) to see if any concerns emerge.

Be prepared with referrals for a substance abuse evaluation if the assessment indicates a potential substance abuse issue.