Teen prescription drug abuse is often attractive to teenagers over illicit drugs. Because these drugs are allowed under a doctor’s guidance, many teenagers are lulled into a false sense of security that the drugs are actually safe. However, these medications are offered under a doctor’s direction for a reason. When taken too long or in the wrong way, they can have serious side effects. Many prescription drugs can also be quite addicting as well. This can lead to a lifetime battle with addiction when taken without the proper oversight. Unfortunately, for thousands of teenagers every day, access to prescription drugs is simple, creating an addiction problem that is hard to break.
What Is Teen Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse occurs when someone uses a prescription drug without a prescription or in a way that it is not prescribed to be used for the sole purpose of experiencing a high. Sometimes teens will also abuse prescription drugs with the belief that they will help with alertness and studying abilities, giving them the edge as they study or prepare schoolwork.
While any prescription drug can be used improperly, a few are known for their abilities to create the “high” that teens sometimes crave. Opioids, like prescription pain relievers, stimulants, like medications for ADHD, and central nervous system depressants, like the medications used to treat depression and other mood disorders, are the most commonly abused drugs among teenagers.
How Teenagers Get Prescription Drugs
It would seem that prescription drugs are hard to attain because of the way in which they are controlled, but truthfully access to prescription drugs is easier than many people think. Teenagers often know someone who is on a prescription, and may even have these drugs in their own homes when parents or siblings have to take them. Snagging a few pills to get a high from time to time is simple. The 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey found that half of all high school seniors reported opioid drugs would be easy to access if they wanted them.
The Prevalence of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that approximately 2,000 teens abuse prescription drugs every single day. Around 15 percent of high school seniors have reported non-medical use of prescription drugs, and high school seniors listed prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications along with tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and synthetic marijuana as their drug of choice. Prescription drug abuse among teens is a very serious problem.
Why is this a growing problem? For one, the ease of access to prescription drugs is contributing to the problem. The supposed effects, such as the ability to stay alert or to lose weight, cause many teens to turn to prescription drugs. Teens are also more prone to use prescription drugs over street drugs because of the myth that these drugs are somehow safer.
The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health measured teen prescription drug abuse, and reported that:
- 369,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 1.5% of that population, misused prescription stimulants such as Adderall
- 460,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 1.8% of that population, misused prescription sedatives and tranquilizers (benzodiazepines et. al.)
- 695,000 American adolescents ages 12-17, or 2.8% of that population, misused prescription painkillers (codeine, oxycodone, and other opiates/opioids)
As you can see, teen prescription drug abuse breaks down into three pharmaceutical categories. Some teen prescription drug abuse is related to opioid and opiate painkillers, taken in cough syrups or as pills. These drugs are a common gateway to abusing fentanyl and heroin. Other teen prescription drug abuse stems from ADHD treatment. This can lead teens to use Adderall and Vyvanse for school or other purposes. Finally, some teen prescription drug abuse uses benzodiazepines like Xanax.
At Destinations for Teens, we treat all types of teen prescription drug abuse. We have programs for teen prescription drug abuse including:
- Adderall Addiction
- Codeine Addiction
- Percocet Addiction
- Synthetic Drug Addiction
- Vicodin Addiction
- Vyvanse Addiction
- Xanax Addiction
The Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse
Unfortunately, prescription drugs are not necessarily safer than street drugs, and teenagers who abuse them are putting themselves at a huge risk. First, the medication is often dose specific for the person. When someone else takes that medication, the dose may be too strong to be safe for that individual. Also, other drugs that the teen may take for genuine medical conditions can interact with the drug. This can cause serious, and even life-altering, side effects. When doctors prescribe medications, they check for these types of interactions. But, this protection is removed when prescription drugs are taken by someone else.
When prescription drugs are abused, they are often taken in a way other than how they were intended. For example, many drugs are crushed and inhaled when taken recreationally. Unfortunately, when those pills were designed to be released slowly over a 12-hour period, such as in the case of prescription pain killers, the result is a huge risk for overdose, which can be fatal.
Most prescription drugs come with a host of side effects. When someone is suffering from a medical condition, the risk of side effects may be worthwhile. For people who do not have the condition, the side effects can be quite difficult to live with. For example, opioids may stop pain, but they can also cause drowsiness and constipation, which impact quality of life. Stimulants may make someone feel more alert, but they can increase heart rate and blood pressure. The side effects can increase when the drug is not how it should be.
Helping Teens With Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction is a very real problem for many teens. If you are a teenager who is struggling with addiction, or a teen who you know is, get help. First, make sure that prescription drugs are not accessible to the teens in your life. Then, seek the help of an addiction treatment facility to ensure that your young person is able to break the cycle of addiction. The risk is simply not worth any benefit of these medications.
Give us a call at 877.466.0620 to learn more about teen prescription drug abuse and how we can provide support.