According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, prescription drug abuse by American teenagers is a major problem. A solid 24% of teens – more than 1 in 4 – abuse prescription drugs at some point in their lifetime.
And it’s getting worse, because that is a 33% increase from 2008.
Take a look at these other telling statistics:
- 20% of teens who abuse prescriptions started before they turned 14.
- 27% of all teens think that prescription drugs are “safer” than street drugs.
- 16% of parents also share that misconception.
- One-third of teenagers see no problem with taking a prescription that is not theirs to help with “an injury, illness, or physical pain”.
- 42% of teenage prescription abusers took their drugs from their home medicine cabinets.
- 49% got them from a friend.
“Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and want to protect their kids. But the truth is that when misused and abused, medicines – especially stimulants and opioids – can be every bit as dangerous and harmful as those illicit street drugs.”
~Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Parents Are Misinformed about Prescription Drug Abuse
But as bad as all of this is, parental attitudes don't help. Only 16% of parents mention prescription drugs when they talk to their children about the dangers of substance abuse. Yet, approximately 80% of parents discuss alcohol and/or marijuana.
This is not surprising, because those two substances are abused by teens at higher rates than any other intoxicants. However, prescription drugs come next. They are the third-most abused substance among teens.
Because they may view their parents’ silence as tacit approval, 23% of teens think that their parents wouldn’t care very much if they were caught abusing prescription medications instead of illicit street drugs.
What Kinds of Prescription Drugs Do Teens Abuse?
There are three main classes of prescription drugs typically abused by teenagers:
- Opioids – Pain-killing medications such as Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco), Oxycodone (OxyContin), Codeine, etc.
In 2015, 276,000 American teenagers used prescription painkillers non-medically. In addition, 122,000 of those met the criteria for a medical diagnosis of an Opioid Use Disorder.
- Depressants – Benzodiazepine-class medications such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam (Ativan), Oxazepam (Seresta), temazepam (Restoril), or Zolpidem (Ambien), among others. These drugs are typically prescribed for anxiety or insomnia.
- Stimulants – Prescribed for ADHD, the most common medications are Adderall and Ritalin.
What Are Some of the Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse among Teens?
The misuse of prescription medications is particularly dangerous during the teenage years. Because adolescent brains develop until early adulthood, abusers run the risk of “hardwiring” their neural pathways with a propensity toward addiction.
Also, there is the very real possibility of overdose. In 2015, over 52,000 Americans died because of fatal drug overdoses. And prescription medications make up the majority of those deaths. Right now, drug overdoses are the #1 cause of accidental death in the United States.
If your teenager abuses any kind of prescription medication, Teensavers Treatment Centers can help. For over 35 years, Teensavers has been providing specialized care to families and teens struggling with addictive or psychiatric disorders.
For a confidential intake interview and assessment, contact Teensavers today.
by Albert Fontenot