When you worry about your teen using dangerous substances, what is it causing the most anxiety? Alcohol? Marijuana? MDMA? All of these are common recreational habits of people under 21, and certainly pose a threat. But the most frequently abused substances probably aren’t coming from out in the streets. Teens are finding it in your family medicine cabinet.
What is even more shocking than the availability of these common family prescriptions is that many parents don’t find this alarming.
Prescription drugs are becoming one of the biggest health risks to teens across the country. Here are five things every parent needs to know about teen prescription drug abuse.
52M People In The US (12 Years Old Or Older) Have Used Prescription Drugs Non-Medically
This will come off as a shocking statistic, but it is 100% true. Everyday people all over the US are using prescription drugs that are either not prescribed to them, or are being used for non-medical reasons. Surveys done on this topic have taken into account children as young as 12-years-old, which shows just how prevalent such drug abuse has become.
Doctors have been feverishly trying to address this issue over the past several years. It has prompted a number of complicated legal changes in many states that impact how prescription medications are administered and filled. Though these changes seem to have had little impact on the problem.
The truth is that whether new rules are placed on prescription drugs or not, teens can still get a hold of pills if they want to. Maybe they aren’t coming from your home, but that of a relative. Or a friend. Or someone they only know as an acquaintance.
Between 2008 and 2012, Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Increased By 33%
Back in 2013 a study was released that gave a terrifying figure. While some agencies were reporting drug use in many areas was down among teens, when it came to prescription drugs the rate of abuse had jumped by 33% between 2008 and 2012.
At this point a teen is more likely to have used prescription drugs recreationally than they will have illegal street drugs. And that is a big problem, not only due to health concerns, but because of the ease of access mentioned above.
Over the counter drugs present another risk factor. An astonishing 2.2 million teens have admitted to abusing medications you can buy right from a drug store, such as cough syrup, or “sizzurp” as it is referred to when combined with soda and candy to create a drink.
Half Of All Opioid Overdose Fatalities Are From Prescription Drugs
Now we get to one of the most frightening statistics about prescription drug abuse. An opioid is a drug that reacts with certain receptors in the brain to reduce the mind’s perception of pain. It also causes a euphoric feeling. It can include both street and prescription drugs.
At least half of all fatalities related to opioids are attributed to prescription medications. This includes morphine, hydrocodone (such as Norco, Percocet, Oxycontin and Vicodin), Tramadol, and others commonly prescribed for pain.
How many deaths is that? In 2014, the highest number of opioid fatalities on record was announced, with 28,000 in all. So at least 14,000 deaths were caused by prescription opiates alone that year.
Keep in mind that opioids only account for one kind of prescription that teens abuse.
Teens Aren’t Only Abusing PainKillers
You can put prescription drugs being abused into three categories:
Opioids – The drugs references above.
Depressants – Pills that help battle depressive or anxiety induced states. This category can also include sleeping aids. They include Xanax, benzodiazepines like Clonazepam, Valium, and Ambien. Suddenly stopping use after frequent use may cause seizures.
Stimulants – Pills that are used to treat attention deficit and hyperactive disorders (ADD, ADHD). Stimulants include Adderall and Ritalin. They causes a spike in concentration and energy, but can lead to paranoia, dangerously fast heartbeats, and difficulty sleeping.
All three of these categories are frequently abused by teens. In particular those who are dealing with intense stress, depression, anxiety, or intense pressure at home or school. In some cases they may be used in an attempt to improve academic performance, such as in the use of stimulants in order to study longer without sleep.
College campuses have been seeing a steep rise in Adderall abuse.
Prescription Opioids Can Lead To Heroin Use
The idea of “gateway drugs” has been a controversial one. But there is no denying the facts: prescription drug abuse seems to be a road that can often lead to heroin. Since 2002 there has been a 80% increase in the use of heroine by children between the ages of 12 and 17.
Experts have linked this increase to pill popping opioids. Teens become addicted to pills, and their source dries up or the amount needed to get the same high increases with their tolerance. This leads them to street heroin, and a much more severe addiction that can ruin their lives.
Your best bet is to get to your teen early on in their prescription drug abuse. By getting them help and intervening ASAP, you will be more likely to fight off a bigger substance problem in the future.
How Can You Help?
Being aware of the threat is a great start, as is sitting down and talking to your teen about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Spread the word about the issue and signs to look out for, and work with other parents in your community to notice red flags.
Keep your medications in a safe place, and keep track of how many have been used. Make a note of any missing pills or medication bottles. Dispose of old medication you no longer need or use.
Find out more about helping your troubled teen by visiting Sundance Canyon Academy.