Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens: What Parents Should Know To Protect Their Teens

You can protect your teens from prescription drugs. Learn how to safeguard the medicine cabinet and how to manage a teen’s use of prescribed drugs. More here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: What can you do about prescription drugs in your home? Learn how to lock down your meds. Plus, practical tips on what to do when your teen is prescribed psychoactive drugs.

4 Billion Scripts Written Every Year

According to research, doctors fill roughly 4 billion prescriptions every year in America. So, if you are like most people who live in the United States, you have at least one prescription drug in the house.

Prescription drugs may seem safer than street medicine, but don’t let those orange bottles fool you. When used inappropriately, legal medications can be as addictive as illicit drugs. The most dangerous prescription drugs are:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Anxiety pills
  • Pain killers
  • Sleep aids
  • Stimulants

Even when a doctor prescribes these common drugs, they can still result in poor heart activity, illness, and organ failure.

Prescription Drug Abuse Is Common Among Teens

In today’s society, the young and the old alike are abusing prescription medications. Aside from marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs have become the preferred substance for many teens. Studies show that roughly 1 in 4 teens have misused a drug prescribed by a doctor at least once during their life. Here’s another astonishing statistic: A third of teens believe that it’s okay to use another person’s prescription drugs.

How Teens Abuse Prescription Drugs

There are many ways that teens abuse prescription drugs. Some teens may use prescription drugs by passing around pills at a party or social gathering. Other teens may use prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to help them study more effectively. Such prescription drugs are known by teens as “study drugs,” as these substances are often used while taking exams or writing a paper.

Plus, a large number of teens use prescription drugs to “get high” and escape reality. The most popular drugs for getting high are anxiety pills and opioid painkillers; these types of drugs may include Valium, Xanax, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone. Although teens most often abuse these drugs to have fun or study, some teens may misuse prescription drugs as a quick way to lose weight.

Ways To Safeguard The House

Due to the fact that almost every household contains prescription drugs, they are much more accessible than street drugs. So, just as you should lock your alcohol cabinet, it’s imperative that you secure your medications as well. Given the danger of prescription drugs, leaving them within easy reach of teens is too risky. Over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol should also be safeguarded.

To protect your teens from abusing prescription medications, consider taking these measures.

  • Secure all medication in a locked place.
  • All adults in the household need to monitor their own meds.
  • Count the pills in each bottle on a regular basis.
  • Avoid placing extra pills in the trash.
  • Place prescription refill forms in a private spot.
  • Remove personal information from containers.
  • Encourage other parents to do the same.

Once you have safeguarded the prescription medications in your house, remember to pay attention to your teens’ lives outside the home as well. This may include knowing where they are going, when they will be back, and meeting their close friends. By doing so, you should be able to quickly notice any prescription drug abuse signs.

Things To Do If Your Teen Already Has A Prescription

After your teen has suffered from an illness, surgery, or a mental health condition, his physician may prescribe medication for him. Although these prescription drugs can make his current condition more bearable, these medications also have the potential to be dangerous if used in an inappropriate way.

As a responsible parent, one of your jobs now becomes monitoring your teen’s prescription drug usage. Here are some important steps you can take.

Monitor the meds. Try to oversee your teen every time he takes his prescribed medications. This way, you can ensure that your teen takes the right dosage at the right time.

Be proactive in your messaging. Remind your teen that the prescribed medication is for her use only. Tell your teen that selling his prescription medication to other teens or classmates is unacceptable and illegal. Additionally, inform your teen that he shouldn’t increase or decrease the dosage without checking with his doctor first.

Maintain a record of every single pill. With this record, you can also keep track of the side effects that the drugs have on your teen’s body. Then, share any noticeable side effects with the doctor.

Be present at appointments. Attend all doctor appointments with your teen, Meet with the doctor on a regular basis so that he/she can reevaluate your teen’s progress. Then, follow the doctor’s instructions.

Stay educated. Know the drugs or activities that your teen should avoid while he is taking his prescription medications

The Reality Of Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens

Between 2008 and 2013, prescription drug abuse increased by about 33 percent among teens. Over 1,700 teens lost their lives from prescription drug overdoses in 2014. Additionally, in that same year, thousands of teens were hospitalized with severe side effects due to the misuse of prescription drugs.

Prescription drug misuse and abuse needs to be taken seriously. Teens need to know that pills that are prescribed by a doctor can be as dangerous as illegal substances sold on a street corner or handed out at a party.

Prescription Drug Education

The key to substance abuse prevention is education. At an early age, parents should constantly inform their teens that misusing prescription drugs can result in deadly consequences. Make sure that your teen knows that even over-the-counter medicine can be harmful when used in an improper manner.

Your teen should also know that giving her prescription medications to someone else, or using another person’s prescription medication, is a crime. Not only will she be experiencing her own negative consequences, but she would also be placing other people at risk. For example, if your teen is caught participating in this illegal activity, she could find herself in court, going through legal proceedings. The possibility of going to court should be enough to urge teens to never abuse prescription medications.

Teen Addiction Treatment

Prescription drug abuse is preventable, but sometimes treatment may be necessary. If you notice signs of prescription drug abuse in your teen, meet with a substance abuse counselor or family doctor in your city to go over the symptoms you have observed. Always remember that your teen is worth the visit.

About the author
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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