How to Prevent Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

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The misuse of prescription drugs has become a popular trend among American teens. Many begin using because they assume that prescription medications are a safer way to get high when compared with street drugs.

Experts caution that prescription drugs are extremely dangerous to use for recreational purposes with many serious side effects. Teens may also be taking other medications that can lead to dangerous reactions when mixed with a drug they haven’t been prescribed.

Teens are often introduced to the recreational use of prescription drugs at parties where teens bring various medications for mixing and experimenting. The drugs are relatively easy to obtain, with many teens able to find forgotten painkillers and stimulants in their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets.

Another common misuse of a prescription is the taking of Adderall or other stimulants prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to heighten focus and concentration to achieve academic goals. These drugs are so widely prescribed that many students have a friend who has access to a prescription for ADHD medication.

While the rampant misuse of prescription medications is a relatively recent phenomenon, researchers are increasingly gaining understanding of the factors involved when a teen decides to use prescription medications to get high.

A recent study examined the factors that can act as a protection against prescription drug use, as well as identifying predictors for prescription drug misuse and abuse. The researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that a strong relationship with parents that caution against drug use can reduce teen prescription drugs abuse.

The findings, which appear in a recent issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention, are based on a survey of more than 54,000 students in the 7 through 12 grades across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The survey was conducted by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati and was led by Keith King, professor of health promotion at the University of Cincinnati, and his colleagues.

Among the students surveyed, 13.7 percent admitted to a history of using prescription drugs for recreational purposes, with males more likely to misuse than females, high school more likely to misuse than middle schoolers and Hispanic students more likely than white or African-American respondents.

The survey results showed that there were certain pro-social behaviors that were associated with lower levels of prescription drug misuse, such as a strong connection with parents and to teachers at school. A connection with peers that tended to disapprove of drug use also acted as a protection against prescription drug misuse.

As for the factors that increased the likelihood of misusing prescription drugs, students that interacted with peers that used alcohol, tobacco or marijuana was a key determinant.

Parents concerned about their child using prescription drugs can talk with them about the potential dangers of misusing a medication. They can also incorporate relationship-building events into family life, such as increasing the number of meals the family eats together each week and taking time to show an interest in their child’s academic and extracurricular activities.

Many children turn to misusing prescription medications as a response to high levels of stress. Parents can talk with their teenagers about the demands on them, both at school and with extracurricular activities, to monitor their child’s stress levels. They can encourage their child to use healthy ways of dealing with stress, such as exercise and adequate levels of sleep.

In addition, parents can take practical steps to be sure that teens are not obtaining medications easily. All medications should be locked up and monitored for tampering. Parents can also encourage grandparents and other relatives to keep medications under a watchful eye.

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