Rise of Teen Prescription Drug Use
Teen prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in recent years to alarming heights. This is in large part due to the larger societal problem of over diagnosis and excessive prescribing. Prescription drugs are now the most abused form of drug by teens, and the numbers are continuing to rise as teens fall to peer-pressure and curiosity. This spike in teen prescription drug abuse has been fueled by the easy accessibility of these drugs to teens. Many teens have parents who are prescribed and use these drugs on a regular basis. This makes acquiring these drugs as simple as going into the bathroom medicine cabinet. These drugs are also widely available to teens through their friends who have prescriptions and share with their friends.
Prescription Drugs Abused
There are three primary classes of prescription drugs that are being increasingly abused by teens. Painkillers (prescribed to treat pain) such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, Depressants (prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders) such as Valium and Xanax, and Stimulants (mainly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD) such as Adderall, Concerta or Ritalin.
Causes of Prescription Acceptance
Prescription drug abuse in teens can be difficult to identify and many parents are unaware and are not keen to the warning signs. This makes it hard for parents to identify the problem. Additionally, many parents speak with their children about illicit drugs, but fail to cover prescription drug abuse. Because the drugs are prescribed by a doctor it can be hard for parents to appreciate and understand the devastating addictive nature of these prescription drugs. The idea that these drugs can be abused and are highly addictive and wreak as much havoc as illicit drugs is much more difficult for adults to wrap their heads around. While the visible effects of prescription drug abuse will vary depending on the substance and the amount taken, some fairly universal warning signs include: constricted pupils, slurred speech, flushed skin, sweating, loss of appetite, personality changes, mood swings, excessive energy, sleepiness or avoiding sleep, missing pills or presence of unfamiliar pills, running out of medication too quickly, losing pills, or requesting refills. This upward trend in teen prescription drug use is also fueled by the misconception that prescription drugs are somehow safer or less addictive then illicit drugs. Finally, because this is a relatively new trend in teens and there is less of a negative connotation with the use of prescription drugs then there is for more illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin, there is less of a stigma attached to their use.
Prescription drugs can take a major toll on the body and with enough use can result in overdose and death. This is a threat which must be taken seriously. We need to work harder at educating ourselves and the public at large to the threats posed by prescription drug abuse and gain a true appreciation for the extent to which this has spread and the dire consequences it has had, and will continue to have, on our young people.