Although teens are turning away from street drugs, now there's a new threat and it's from the family medicine cabinet: The abuse of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense in addressing this troubling trend.
What's the problem?
Teens are abusing some prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high. This includes painkillers, such as those drugs prescribed after surgery; depressants, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs; and stimulants, such as those drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens are also abusing over-the-counter drugs, such as cough and cold remedies.
Every day 2,500 youth age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs.1 Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice.
Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens who wouldn't otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs. And not many parents are talking to them about it, even though teens report that parental disapproval is a powerful way to keep them away from drugs.
What are the dangers?
There are serious health risks related to abuse of prescription drugs. A single large dose of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty that can lead to death. Stimulant abuse can lead to hostility or paranoia, or the potential for heart system failure or fatal seizures. Even in small doses, depressants and painkillers have subtle effects on motor skills, judgment, and ability to learn.
The abuse of OTC cough and cold remedies can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, coma, and even death. Many teens report mixing prescription drugs, OTC drugs, and alcohol. Using these drugs in combination can cause respiratory failure and death.
Prescription and OTC drug abuse is addictive. Between 1995 and 2005, treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 300 percent.
Is your teen using?
Have you noticed changes in your child's behavior? Or does he or she have friends that you suspect might be abusing prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs? Whatever the reason - don't ignore the issue at this critical time.
The problem is more common than many parents think. More teens are abusing prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs.
And among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drugs of choice.
Teens are abusing a variety of prescription drugs to get high, including painkillers, depressants, and stimulants.
Teens are also abusing over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, such as cough and cold remedies, to get high.
Steroids are also often abused in efforts to enhance body shape or image.
If you suspect your child is abusing prescription or OTC drugs, the first step is to open the lines of communication. Start by visiting www.theantidrug.com for information about how to talk to your teens about prescription drug use.