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Teens Drug of Choice: Prescription Med

Prescription drugs are the number one drugs abused by teenagers and has been on the increase in the U.S. for 10 years. One in five teens, 4.5 million total, admit to abusing drugs not prescribed for them.

Why Teens Abuse Prescription Drugs

Parents often worry about street drugs like cocaine, crystal meth and heroin but many do not give a thought to the prescribed medicines in their own home. Adults have their prescription drugs conveniently stored in the medicine cabinet. While intended to treat a specific condition for a specific patient, some teens look at these medicines as an opportunity for a potential high, without buying or using street drugs.

Three out of five teens admit they have easy access to prescription drugs at home. Teens “borrow drugs” from parents or sometimes barter with friends to obtain them.

What Meds Are Teens Taking?

Teens are creative with the prescription drug use. They snort or ingest them, either crushing them or downing handfuls at a time. Teens most commonly abuse:

Pain medication

  • Vicodin (hydrocodone, Vike, Tuss)
  • OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet (oxycodone, Percs, cotton)
  • MS Contin, Roxanol, Avinza (morphine, morph)

Intended use: Treat pain
Effects: Euphoria, possible hallucinations

Muscle relaxants

  • Soma, Soprodal, Vanadom (carisoprodol, Ds, Dance)

Intended use: Relieve short-term acute muscle pain
Effects: Calmness, emotional well-being


  • Valium (diazepam, blues)
  • Xanax (alprazolam, Benzos, bricks)

Intended use: Treat anxiety, insomnia
Effects: Euphoria, sleepiness, floating sensation


  • Ritalin, Concerta (methylphenidate, vitamin R, Rits)
  • Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, black beauties, beans)

Intended use: Treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Effects: Intense energy, improved concentration

The Dangers behind Prescriptions

A few key dangers of prescription drug abuse include:

  • 4 in 10 teens believe that prescribed medications are safer than street drugs
  • 3 in 10 teens think that prescription drugs are not addicting
  • Teens can become addicted to prescription drugs and then progress to street drug use
  • They commonly mix drugs with other prescriptions, alcohol, street drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which increases the risk of overdosing
  • Teens often self-medicate with prescription drugs to abate the pressures of school, family problems, underlying depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues
  • Some teens think that taking prescription drugs is an adult behavior

Preventing Prescription Abuse

There are a few ways to help teens prevent the use and abuse of prescription drugs:

  • Increase discussions between parents and teens; parents need to be honest, brief and firm in their communications and have repeated conversations
  • Watch for behavior changes, mood patterns, sleeping pattern changes and act quickly if there is any suspicion of drug use
  • More substance abuse education is needed, including teenage misconceptions about the safety of prescribed drugs
  • The availability and easy accessibility of prescription drugs in the home need to be monitored
  • Lock medications in a secure place, mark the number of pills in each bottle and/or remove the temptations from the home
  • For teens taking medications like Ritalin, parents should dispense only one day dosing at a time

Every prescription drug abuse case has its own story. It is important to educate teens, monitor their behavior and intervene immediately if prescription, or any other, drug use is suspected.

Drug treatment programs, counseling and therapy groups are a few of the treatment options available. Intervention is the key to recovery.

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