Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

Today teenagers are not using as much cocaine, crack, LSD, and ecstasy as the teenagers of the 1960’s. Kids have found other ways and means to get high; painkillers and other prescription drugs are being abused at record levels. This up coming generation of teens has been given the name “Generation Rx.”

Teens are often getting caught raiding their parent’s or grandparent’s medicine cabinets in order to get high. For the first time, national studies show that today’s teens are more likely to have abused a prescription painkiller than any illicit drug.

Teenagers may get involved with prescription drugs in various ways. The experimental stage can be very dangerous, because kids often don’t see the link between their actions today the consequences of their actions tomorrow.

Most teens have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience. Some teens will experiment and stop, while others may continue to use occasionally without any significant problem. Then there are those who develop a dependency; these are the ones that need immediate intervention and help learning to make better decisions.

It is impossible to predict which teens will experiment and stop and which ones will develop serious problems. Know what your teen is doing and who they are doing it with. The following are some warning signs of teenagers at risk for developing serious prescription drug dependency:

• A family history of substance or alcohol abuse
• Depression
• Low self-esteem
• Feel like they don’t fit in and are not popular with the mainstream
• Frequently feel sluggish and have difficulty sleeping
• Aggressive and rebellious attitude toward authority figures

Prescription drug abuse is increasing; the main reason is that they are so easily accessible. If your child has one or more of the above behaviors, seek help from a professional.

Some things that you can share with your teen about prescription medications are:

• pharmaceuticals taken without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can be just as dangerous as taking illicit drugs or alcohol
• Abusing painkillers is like abusing heroin because their ingredients are similar (both are opiates).
• Prescription medications are powerful substances. Medications help sick people and are administered by a doctor. When prescription medication is not used for sickness and not administered by a professional, it becomes a controlled substance and the impact on the person can be deadly.
• Many pills look the same and teenagers may get them mixed up. This can cause different reactions in different people due to the body’s chemistry. It is extremely dangerous to take pills that are unknown.
• Mixing drugs with other substances is very dangerous. Some people have allergic reactions to different chemicals when they are mixed together.

What can you do to help prevent teens or any other person from getting involved with prescription drug abuse? The best thing to do is keep your prescription drugs in a safe place: don’t put them in the medicine cabinet in your bathroom because that is the first place teenager’s will look. If possible, lock them up in a cabinet or safe box. Talk to your teen and warn them of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.


Generation Rx? Teens abusing prescriptions .MSNBC.com. Report: More youth getting high on painkillers than on illegal drugs the associated press April 21, 2005. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7582787/print/1/displaymode/1098/

Drugs and Teens Substance Abuse. http://www.focusas.com/substanceabuse.html

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).