Teenagers are not oblivious to their parents’ upsurge in the use of prescription medications. In fact, many teens are robbing the family medicine bottles to feed their own addiction to prescription drugs.
Every day in the United States, an average of 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs without a prescription for the first time. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, 2.8 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications. According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, synthetic marijuana (e.g., “Spice”), and tobacco. Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report use of other drugs.
Rehab professionals say that addiction to prescription drugs accounts for about 40 percent of teen admittances to treatment.
Teens who are unsure how to deal with painful emotions and kids looking for a way to fit in account for much of the abuse, but the practice is also fueled by the wrong belief that prescriptions are somehow safer than other “street” drugs.
Prescription painkillers are the most often abused, but anti-anxiety medications like Valium or Xanax and stimulants such as Adderall are also high on the list. The sheer abundance of these drugs in family homes is one reason the problem has become so prevalent.
Locking up or disposing of unused medications is a simple way to prevent the problem from starting. Carefully assessing your own use of prescription medications is another.
Prescription drug abuse usually produces blatant behavioral changes that should be easy for attentive parents to spot. If parents note altered academic performance or extreme moods, they should follow up and find out if prescription medications are responsible.
The wrong thing to do is to ignore one’s suspicions. Kids may respond in anger in the short run, but if the child is caught up in addiction, in the long run her or she will be grateful that mom or dad stepped in.
Outpatient therapy or inpatient therapy is available for teens trapped in addiction. Thousands of teens who have struggled with addition have now living healthy and happy lives with the help of treatment and recovery services.