Prescription Drug Abuse

Teen prescription drug use is a very real concern. Some teenagers think that because a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it is safer to use than illegal drugs. Unfortunately, this is not true. Prescription medications can be as addictive as any street drug, and when prescription drugs are used incorrectly, it can result in a variety of negative effects, including death.

Why do teens use prescription drugs?

According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 25% of teenagers have used prescription drugs at least once for recreational use. Prescription drugs are often easier to get than illegal street drugs, as bottles of painkillers, stimulants and other prescription drugs are often in medicine cabinets, purses and in lockers at school. Teens use prescription drugs to get a buzz, find a sense of calm (to relax) or to help them find the energy to complete their tasks or stay up late to do homework.

Types of prescription drugs popular among teenagers

Prescription drugs come in a variety of uses and classifications. However, there are three main types of prescription drugs especially popular among teens:

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants. These are things like Xanax and Valium that create a calming effect. Teens who feel stressed may take these for the calming effect they have, accompanied by a slight buzz.

Opioids. Prescription opioids are usually used medically as painkillers. OxyContin, Vicodin and Demerol are good examples. These provide a buzz effect in teens of normal health.

Stimulants. These are commonly used as “performance enhancing drugs” for students who want to stimulate brain activity and be able to stay alert for longer to work on homework. Drugs used to treat ADHD fall into this category, and are among the easiest to get, as students that have prescriptions sell them to students who do not. Popular stimulants include Ritalin, Strattera and Adderall.

Effects of teen prescription drug abuse

The effects of teen prescription drug abuse can be quite severe. Mixing medications and taking them with alcohol can result in death. Seizures and heart failure can occur. Other effects have more to do with relationships and with school performance:

  • Declining grades (in cases of opioid and CNS depressant use especially)
  • Lack of money, since it is used to purchase drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of being sick or shaky when not using the drugs
  • A need for more of the drug to have the same effect
  • Increasingly aggressive
  • Resorting to illegal behaviors to obtain the money for the prescription drugs

Treatment for teen prescription drug abuse

Getting help for teen prescription drug abuse is very important. Treatment usually includes some sort of inpatient or outpatient facility or program, as well as professional counseling. Friends and relatives of a teenager with a prescription drug abuse problem should be as supportive as possible, offering encouragement and a listening ear. Overcoming any addiction is hard work, and often the teenager will have to continue to work at avoiding the pitfalls for the rest of his or her life.

Prescription Drug Abuse Main source material:

  • “Prescription Drug Abuse,” [Online.]