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Prescription Drugs VS. Street Drugs: What Are The Dangers?

When it comes to teen drug abuse, parents are understandably worried. In addition to the drugs themselves, you are concerned about the unsafe situations that often go with them. The “drug scene” changes over time, with some drugs gaining popularity with teens and college students, new drugs being invented, along with new ways to do them. Although any drug is potentially dangerous, there are some that warrant an increased level of awareness and concern. Prescription drugs fall under that category. To keep your teen safe, learn the difference between prescription drugs vs street drugs, and find out how to talk to your teen about substance abuse treatment.

Prescription Drug Use

Unfortunately, in recent years, the popularity of prescription drugs among teenagers has increased. They are relatively easy to get, often as easy as getting into the medicine cabinet at home. Prescription drugs commonly used include Vicodin, OxyContin, Norco, Valium, and drugs like Xanax, Ativan, and other medications used for anxiety or to help you sleep. What are the dangers? Many kids don’t understand how potent or addictive these drugs are. They may believe that illegal street drugs are more dangerous than drugs that can be found in Mom or Grandpa’s medicine cabinet. They may not understand that they could quickly be physically dependent on opioid drugs like Norco, Oxycodone, or Vicodin. These drugs are so commonly prescribed for pain, and so readily available at home or for sale that your teen can be quickly hooked.

The Dangers Of Abuse

The dangers are numerous. Overdose is a risk your child takes every time they use. Again, teens can underestimate how much of the drug constitutes a fatal dose. At parties, it is common to use prescription drugs in conjunction with other drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana. This can lead to overdose quickly. Dependence is a real danger. Your teen may not realize the consequences of opioid or benzodiazepine dependence, or how severe the withdrawal symptoms can be. In the case of benzodiazepines, withdrawing from the drug without medical supervision can be deadly.

Building Tolerance

With dependence, tolerance increases, and the user needs more and more of the drug in order to stay well and avoid withdrawal symptoms. This can lead to an increase in risky behaviors. Often, people start out taking pain pills, but turn to heroin once dependent if they can no longer obtain the prescription drugs. They may begin using intravenously, exposing themselves to increased health risks. According to statistics, prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused drug by children 14 and older, following marijuana and alcohol. This is an alarming statistic, given the dangers of prescription drugs. There is no safe, recreational use when it comes to prescription drugs and your teens. It doesn’t matter if it is their first time using, or they have been using for some time. The risks of overdose, and the rapid rate of tolerance and dependence means that any use of prescription drugs constitutes a problem.

Watching For Signs

If you suspect your teen has experimented with prescription drugs, it is important to address it immediately. Keep the lines of communication open, and help them to get the education they need around these drugs. It is important that they understand what tolerance and dependence is. They should know what the withdrawal symptoms are and that once they are dependent, they will get very sick if they do not continue taking the drugs.

Help for Teen Drug Addiction

Fortunately, there is help available for prescription drug addiction. If your teen has a problem, there is effective treatment available to get them through withdrawal and treat them for addiction. Destinations for Teens offers several different program options to help teens recover from substance abuse and addiction. These can include the following:

To learn more about the difference between prescription drugs vs street drugs and how to help your teen, contact Destinations for Teens at 877.466.0620.


  • Injury Prevention And Control: Prescription Drug Overdose, Centers For Disease Control And Prevention,
  • What Is Prescription Drug Abuse? NIDA For Teens, March 6, 2015,