Young adolescents ages 12 and 13 abuse drugs much less frequently than older teenagers. However, when these young adolescents do abuse drugs, they are more likely to abuse prescription medications than any other type of drug.
Prescription medications are typically much easier for teens to get their hands on than other drugs, and some teens do not realize that misusing medications that are beneficial when used correctly can be extremely dangerous.
Teens Find Prescription Drugs in Their Homes
There are various reasons why prescription medication abuse is the most common kind of drug abuse among adolescents in this age group, but the biggest reason is that most teens can get access to the drugs without leaving home.
In this day and age, almost every home contains prescription drugs of some sort. Some common drugs have little or no potential for abuse, but many others are commonly abused and potentially dangerous. Medications with significant potential for abuse include opioid painkillers, sleeping pills and stimulants used to treat ADHD.
Most teens have no idea how to get access to illegal drugs, and some would have no way to pay for such drugs even if they knew where and how to purchase them. As a result, prescription drugs in their own homes or sometimes the homes of family or friends can prove an irresistible temptation to adolescents who want to experiment with getting high.
Many Teens Do Not Recognize the Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse
Various household products are also popular ways for teens to get high, and for a similar reason—they are readily available in most homes. Household products that have been used to get intoxicated include spices, hand sanitizer and mouthwash as well as inhalants like gasoline.
However, prescription drugs can be even more tempting than these other readily available household items because they are often seen as less dangerous. Even the most adventurous teens have to recognize that paint thinner is not meant for any form of human consumption, but prescription medications are designed to make or keep people healthy.
Unfortunately, many teens who abuse prescription drugs do not realize that using these medications improperly can make them just as dangerous and often just as addictive as many illegal drugs. The mistaken belief that abusing prescription drugs is not as dangerous as other forms of drug abuse can even make teenagers more careless and encourage them to take even more experimental risks than they would with illegal drugs.
Parents Have a Role to Play
Parents can take steps to keep prescription drugs out of the reach of teenagers by keeping them in locked drawers or medicine cabinets. This becomes a little more difficult when prescription medications are prescribed for the teens themselves, since they may feel entitled to have access to their own medications. In this situation, parents can still take measures to ensure that these medications are not being abused by keeping track of how many doses should remain each day.
Parents can also talk to their teens, or encourage their doctors to talk to their teens, about the dangers involved in misusing or abusing prescription drugs. This is particularly important if teenagers themselves have prescriptions for medications that they are using on a regular basis.