Teens on Prescription Drugs
Prevalence of prescription drug
abuse among teens.
Prescription medications are quickly becoming teens' drugs of choice. Though teen illicit drugs use has declined in recent years, more and more young people are turning to prescription drugs to get high. In fact, each day an average of 2,000
teenagers age 12 to 17 use prescription drugs for the first time without a doctor’s guidance.
nearly 2 million youth aged 12 to 17 abused prescription drugs, with 1.6
million abusing prescription pain medications. That makes painkillers among
the most commonly abused drugs by teens after tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Of
the 14 most commonly abused illicit drugs amongst high school seniors, 8 are
prescription medications. In order, they are:
Monitoring the Future Study showed that 2.7% of 8th graders, 7.7% of 10th
graders and 8.0% of 12th graders had abused Vicodin and 2.1% of 8th graders,
4.6% of 10th graders and 5.1% of 12th graders had abused OxyContin for
nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.
How teens acquire prescription
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s 13th annual survey on attitudes about
drug abuse reported that it’s easier for teens to acquire prescription drugs
than beer. CASA found that 54% of teens who admitted to abusing prescription
drugs say they got them for free from a family member or friend. Sixty percent
of teens admitted that drugs were sold, used or kept at school.
Effects and risks of prescription
people underestimate the risks associated with the use of opiates, like Vicodin
or OxyContin or stimulants, like Adderall or Ritalin; but, in reality prescription medications are very similar to drugs like
of prescription drugs can cause serious damage to users, especially when
combined with other substances or when used in high doses. For example, long-term
use of opioids or central nervous system depressants can lead to physical
dependence and addiction. Opioids can cause drowsiness, confusion, constipation
and, depending on dosage, depress breathing. Central nervous system depressants
slow brain functioning, cause confusion and lead to poor judgment. If
combined with alcohol or with other medications that cause drowsiness, they can
slow heart rate and respiration to dangerous levels. Taken repeatedly or in
high doses, stimulants can cause anxiety, paranoia, dangerously high body
temperatures, irregular heartbeat, seizures, weight loss and insomnia.
Preventing teen prescription drug
To prevent teens from acquiring prescription medications, parents need
to keep track of their medications, limit teens’ access to medications and
throw out old or unused medications.
to teens about the risks of prescription drug abuse is also critically important.
Studies show that teens whose parents talk to them on a regular basis about the
dangers of using drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than teens whose
parents don’t talk to them about drugs.
Signs of teen prescription drug
of prescription drug abuse include behaviors such as taking higher doses than
prescribed; seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor; “losing”
prescriptions so further prescriptions must be written; stealing, forging
or selling prescriptions; excessive mood swings; and appearing unusually
energetic or sedated.
Treating prescription drug abuse.
treatment of prescription drug dependence typically involves both behavioral
and pharmacological interventions.
the first step in treating prescription drug dependence is to slowly decrease
dosage and begin the detoxification process. However, since the withdrawal
symptoms from prescription drugs can be quite severe (especially when detoxing
from central nervous system depressants), professional supervision is
detoxification phase is complete, most treatment plans begin behavioral
therapy, such as individual counseling, group counseling, family counseling,
contingency management, community reinforcement, cognitive-behavioral therapy
or psychotherapy. Most behavioral treatments teach patients strategies to deal
with cravings, avoid triggers, function without drugs and cope with situations
that could potentially trigger relapse.
is often delivered in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Several medications are available for treating prescription opioid addiction, in particular.
Nalextrone, for example, discourages use by preventing addictive drugs from
activating pleasure receptors in the brain. Other drugs, such as methadone
and buprenorphine, reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Currently, no
pharmaceutical treatment exists for the treatment of prescription stimulants
(Adderall, Concerta, etc.).
Prescription drug addiction treatment
programs should always be comprehensive, addressing all the patient’s needs and
characteristics, not just those associated with addiction. Comorbidities and
other social, psychological and physical issues should be taken into account.