Teen Prescription Drug Use

Teen Prescription Drug Use talks about the common types of prescription drugs abused by teenagers, effects of teen prescription drug use, over the counter medication that teens use and why, and what the warning signs of teen prescription drug abuse are.

When it comes to drug use - other than alcohol - one of the most common substances abused by teenagers are prescriptions drugs. Teen prescription drug use is second only to marijuana use when it comes to drugs that aren’t alcohol. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), about seven million people over the age of 12 use psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical use.

Common types of prescription drugs abused by teenagers

There are three main types of prescription drugs that are commonly abused by teenagers. These include:

Opioids. For the most part, opioids are used as pain medications. They can produce a “buzz,” however, and are popular amongst teenagers. Some of the opioids used by teens include codeine, morphine found in Avinza and Kadian, and the oxycodone found in Percocet and OxyContin.

Central nervous system depressants. These types of drugs are prescribed to treat sleep problems and anxiety. These drugs have a calming effect, and can even have the effects of a “high” when enough are taken. Some examples of popular prescription drugs include barbiturates like Nembutal and Mebaral, as well as benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium.

Stimulants. The last category includes stimulants. These are used not only for their mind-altering effects for recreation purposes, but some teenagers use them to help them concentrate or to give them an “edge.” Stimulants are used to treat obesity, narcolepsy and ADHD. Some of the popular drugs for teen use in the stimulants category include Ritalin, Adderall, Concert and Dexedrine.

Effects of teen prescription drug use

There are many potentially harmful effects that can stem from prescription drug use by teenagers. Each classification of drug has its own effects and problems:

Opioids, for example, have the potential to slow the breathing. In fact, in some cases it can slow breathing so dramatically that the abuser stops breathing altogether. Depressants decrease heart rate and breathing. Additionally, they can induce seizures that can result in other types of damage to the body. Stimulants can increase the body temperature, leading to fever. Additionally, seizure and heart problems are hallmarks of prescription drug abuse.

Prescription drugs can also have harmful effects when mixed. In many cases, teenagers attend parties where everyone brings some pill from home. They are thrown indiscriminately into a bowl, and participants can grab a handful and take them all. Some of the drugs have serious interactions with each other that can result in death.

Also, it is worth noting that many prescriptions drugs can cause tolerance and addiction. It is possible that teen prescription drug use can lead to an increasing dependency on the drug, as well as an increased chance of overdose as it takes more and more of the drug to have the same effects.

Over the counter medication and teen drug use

While they are not prescriptions drugs, over the counter medications can be dangerous when abused as well. And they are even easier to get than prescription medications. Over the counter cold and cough medicines, as well as pain relievers and stimulants like caffeine pills can also be abused. Many of these drugs, taken in larger amounts, can produce a “buzz.”

Why teens abuse prescription and over the counter drugs

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has reported that many high school students view illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, as risky. However, legal medications are not seen in the same light. Many teenagers do not realize that medications can also cause damage. They make the mistake of believing that since medications are legal - and some are prescribed by the doctor - they must be safer for recreational use than illegal drugs.

Another reason that teen prescription drug use and abuse of over the counter medications is so prevalent has to do with the fact that these drugs are readily available. It is easy to buy some over the counter medications, and other students are willing to sell their ADHD and other prescription medications on a high school black market. And if all else fails, many teenagers simply sneak pills from the medicine cabinet or the purse.

Warning signs of teen prescription drug abuse

Some of the warning signs of teen prescription and over the counter drug abuse include the following:

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
  • Dramatic changes in appearance (especially weight).
  • Sleep problems and restlessness (especially with stimulants).
  • Notice that prescription and over the counter medications seem to be disappearing more quickly than they should.
  • Stains (from cough syrup) around the mouth or on the hands.
  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Change in performance at school or work.

It is important to get help for your teenager if you notice any of the warning signs that he or she might be abusing prescription drugs.

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