Teens Get Prescription Drugs From Friends, Family

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The American prescription abuse epidemic affects all age groups but has perhaps hit teens the worst. More than 2,000 teens try abusing prescription drugs for the first time every day, and a large percentage of them quickly develop an addiction. Unfortunately, these drugs are just as dangerous as many illegal street drugs when not taken as directed. Unlike street drugs, however, prescription drugs are available legally through a doctor and may be present in any home. In fact, the majority of teens get their prescription drug fix from family and friends.

Prescription abuse was once thought to be a problem among older teens and college students, but recent studies show that prescription abuse is popular among younger teens too.

Consider these facts about prescription drug abuse:

  • More than 70 percent of prescription painkiller abusers say they get their drugs from family and friends, with or without their knowledge.
  • Of all Americans who abuse prescription drugs, one in seven is a teenager.
  • One in eight teens has abused prescription painkillers.
  • Nearly half of teens who abuse prescription drugs before age 16 develop an addiction.
  • More teens abuse prescription drugs than ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and hallucinogens combined.
  • 60 percent of teens who first try prescription drugs to get high are 15 years old or younger.

Prescription drug abuse among teens requires more action from the community than law enforcement alone. “At the end of the day, our strongest tool is vigilance among everyone with access to a medicine cabinet,” states Gil Kerlikowske, chief of the White House’s Above the Influence campaign. Any teen with access to parents’, neighbors’ or friends’ prescription meds could abuse these drugs, either with permission or simply by stealing them.

How to Prevent Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Keep track of your medicine. Make sure you know how much you have, and always keep medicine in a safe, locked place. Remember, these are controlled substances, and they should be available only to the person they are prescribed for.

Communicate with your teen. Many teens, and adults, have the misconception that prescription pills are safe to try. Take the time to educate teens on the dangers of abusing prescribed medicines, stressing that these drugs should never be taken with alcohol or any other drug. If a doctor prescribes your teen medication, be sure to carefully monitor his or her usage and ensure all instructions are followed.

Set a good example. Don’t just tell teens how to properly use prescription meds, show them. Always follow dosage instructions carefully and never abuse your prescription meds or give them away, not even to other family members.

Know the warning signs. Learn the signs and symptoms of prescription abuse and take note if any of your medication goes missing, or if you have to get refills more often than expected. Some signs of prescription drug abuse include unexplained shifts in behavior, weight loss, drowsiness, constricted pupils and slurred speech.

Dispose of all prescription meds properly. It’s tempting to keep any leftover prescription pills, but unused medicine can easily be taken and tried by a curious teen, or someone already addicted and looking for a fix. Instead, it’s best to dispose of any leftover medicine. Some can be flushed, while others require more careful handling. Read the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guide to proper medicine disposal for more information.

The sharp rise in prescription pill abuse and fatalities continues to climb and experts warn these drugs are still growing in popularity, especially among teens and young adults. While it’s troubling that most prescription drug abusers get their pills from friends and family, it also offers everyone the opportunity to bring this drug epidemic back under control and keep these drugs out of the wrong hands.

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