Teens and their friends often minimize the dangers of adolescent prescription drug abuse because they don’t realize how dangerous it really can be. Your son or daughter may think the drugs are completely safe because they were prescribed by a doctor. As a parent, you may be less concerned than you would be if your child were using marijuana, meth, heroin or cocaine. While prescription drugs may not be illicit, they are just as dangerous as street drugs. Many have serious, potentially life-threatening consequences when not taken as prescribed or when taken by someone who they weren’t intended for. If your teen is abusing prescription drugs, it’s important to intervene early to avoid addiction or other serious health consequences. To get help, contact Safe Landing today at 844-486-7205.
Prescription drugs are commonly abused. Fortunately, the number of deaths related to prescription drug abuse has dropped over time. In 2017, around 17,029 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. In 2019, that number dropped to 14,139. Why? This is largely a result of the use of naloxone, an opioid reversal drug, and better education on the dangers of prescription pain medications.
Around 1 in 5 high school seniors admits that they’ve misused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Teens are often prescribed opiates or other drugs to manage pain after a surgery or injury, then continue to take the drugs even after they are no longer needed. Teens are also likely to use prescription drugs that were intended for someone else – a friend or someone in their family. Nearly one-third of teenage users said they found the drugs in their own home that were prescribed for someone else.
Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found in 2017 that around 18 million people abused or misused prescription medications in the previous year alone. There is also a worrying increase in the number of people misusing prescription pain medications based on the same study. It found that around 2 million Americans started to misuse prescription pain medications within the year prior to the survey, which means that around 5,480 new cases happened each day in 2016.
Ease of access makes a difference in prescription drug abuse. Depressants that are frequently abused include Ambien, Valium, and Xanax. The most abused opioid pain relievers include the drugs Percocet, Oxycontin, and Norco. Stimulants that are often abused include Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall XR, Dexedrine, and Mydayis.
Misuse of prescription drugs is another significant issue. It is largely believed that medications that come from a medical provider are less dangerous than illicit drugs, but this is not always the case. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding may be why around 4.9% of those between 12 and 17 admitted to the nonmedical use of prescription medications within the last year. Unfortunately, the majority of those surveyed stated that they either purchased or obtained drugs from a friend or relative instead of a medical provider.
Some drugs are addictive, but not all. For example, drugs like ibuprofen or Tylenol are not prone to addiction or dependency, which is why they are largely available in over-the-counter forms. Some allergy medications, like Claritin or Benadryl, are also unlikely to cause addiction when taken as prescribed.
While many people believe that prescription drugs are restricted and not available over the counter due to being addictive, not all actually are. Some are just simply too powerful or dangerous to be used without a prescription. Others commonly interact with drugs and could lead to serious side effects, so their use is limited. As an example, high-dose ibuprofen and some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are not considered to be addictive despite being available by prescription only. Ibuprofen has a potential for overdose, so it is controlled at higher doses. SSRIs treat anxiety or depression, epilepsy and some other conditions, but they must be closely monitored by a medical or psychiatric professional.
It is possible to become addicted to prescription drugs of some kinds. The drugs most likely to lead to addiction include:
For teens, some drugs are easier to get than others. For example, Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Vyvanse may be available in their peer groups, because many teens and young adults are prescribed medication for ADHD.
Opioids are not prescribed as often to teens, but they may be used by teens after common surgeries or accidents. This makes it more likely for teens to sell or trade additional pills with others or to become addicted to their own prescriptions.
Prescription drug abuse and addiction can happen in two ways. The first is through the normal use of the drug or the misuse of a drug prescribed to you. Addictions and dependencies may form even when some drugs are taken as directed. When more is taken than necessary, or when the drug’s use is extended for a longer period of time, a dependency or addiction may develop.
The second way is through the illicit use of a prescription drug. That means taking a drug that was not prescribed to you. Illicit drugs may be sold on the street. Teens might get them at school, from drug dealers, or from other sources.
Regardless of where the drugs come from, there is a risk that they could be addictive. It’s important to discuss the risks of taking drugs that your teen is not prescribed and to go over what to do if a drug is offered to them.
According to the Monitoring the Future Study, which studied trends in prescription drug misuse and above among those in 12th grade between the years 2017 and 2019, around 16.5% of 12th graders in 2017, 15.5% in 2018, and 14.6% in 2019 misused prescription drugs at some point during their lifetime.
In 2010, one study found that around 2.4 million people 12 or older had a dependency or addiction to prescription drugs.
The types of prescription drugs that teens choose to use will impact them differently. Teen prescription drug abuse usually involves drugs that they or their peers are likely to come into contact with, such as pain medications for an injury or ADHD medications for hyperactivity and focus issues.
The medical consequences of misusing prescription medications can be severe. There may be life-threatening complications. There is a high risk of dying from an overdose if a prescription is mixed with other drugs or alcohol, for example.
Painkillers may lead to depressed respiration. They can also cause heart attacks and strokes, even in young people. Stimulants are also a common cause of emergency department admissions.
It’s important to note that teens who abuse prescription drugs are more likely to take part in risky behaviors. That means that they may be more likely to go on to abuse other drugs or alcohol, to smoke, or to use marijuana.
Since teens’ brains are still developing, they are at an increased risk of developing dependencies and addictions.
Teens get prescription drugs from many different sources. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were most likely to obtain drugs:
Sometimes, teens get the medications they abuse due to their own health issues. Other times, they may share drugs with friends or relatives. This is why it’s important for teens to understand the risks of taking drugs that don’t belong to them and for family members to avoid giving medications to others, even if they think that doing so is helpful.
If your teen continues to abuse prescription drugs over a period of time, their addiction may grow stronger. As a result, the related health problems may also become more severe. Depending on the type of drugs they are using, they are at risk for both short- and long-term negative effects on their physical and mental health.
An overdose is one of the most dangerous results of teenage prescription drug abuse. Reasons for an overdose may include:
Another serious risk is the chance that the drug may conflict with another medication that your teen takes. For example, if your teen takes Paxil for their anxiety or epilepsy and mixes it with alcohol, there is an increased chance of side effects such as memory problems or dizziness, drowsiness, or overdose. Taking Vyvanse with alcohol increases the risk of heart problems, and mixing Concerta with Ritalin may lead to an overdose of methylphenidate.
On top of that, some teens have health conditions that may be negatively impacted by taking certain drugs or using alcohol. For example, a teen may use insulin to control their diabetes, drink alcohol and take Ritalin. Alcohol and insulin will drop blood sugar levels to potentially dangerous levels. If you add in Ritalin, then blood glucose levels may be dysregulated. Either hyper or hypoglycemia could occur unexpectedly, and the teen may struggle to regulate their blood sugar levels with regular food and insulin.
There are other risks to your teen’s mental and physical health, as well. Stimulants can cause dangerously high body temperatures, heart problems, and high blood pressure. Opioid misuse can cause low blood pressure, a slowed breathing rate, or a coma. Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications may cause low blood pressure, memory problems, and slowed breathing.
There may be some signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction that you can look for. Teens may have some or all of these symptoms, depending on the drugs they’re taking and the amount they’ve taken.
If you believe that your teen has been misusing drugs or any kind and see the symptoms above, it is important to seek medical attention. Once the drugs they took are identified, there may be ways to mitigate the effects before they can cause further damage or complications.
At Safe Landing, we use evidence-based, proven treatments and therapies to help your teen overcome a prescription drug addiction. Our team will start by speaking with you about developing an addiction treatment plan that is tailored specifically to your son’s or daughter’s needs.
Our experienced staff will assess your child’s physical and mental health as well as their history of prescription drug use and misuse to ensure that the teen drug rehab programs we include in their recovery plan are ideal for their unique situation.
At Safe Landing’s structured, secure facility, your teen will participate in a variety of therapy sessions. Some of the options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, multimodal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, and others. We help them understand and change harmful, negative, unwanted behaviors and teach them new ways to cope with stress and substance abuse triggers. Our team is dedicated to helping teens overcome addictions to prescription drugs and working with them to encourage and achieve long-term sobriety.