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, leading 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 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 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 a dose specific for the person who it is prescribed to. 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, causing 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 used by someone else.
When prescription drugs are abused, they are often taken in a way other than how they were intended to be taken. 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 to enjoy the benefit of the medication. 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. These side effects are often increased when the drug is not taken as prescribed.
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 if you have a teen in your life who is, you need to get help. First, make sure that prescription drugs are not accessible to the teens in your life, and then seek the help of an addiction treatment facility to ensure that your young person is able to break away from the cycle of addiction. The risk is simply not worth any perceived 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.