Teen Prescription Drug Abuse
It seems fairly innocent, after all a doctor prescribed the medication. Is that how teens will excuse the use of a prescription drug?
Smoking marijuana is unfortunately common among many tweens and teens, however just behind that is the use of prescription drugs.
Sometimes these prescription drugs are easily found in a grandparents home or even your own medicine cabinet. Have you seen the recent movie on Lifetime – The Perfect High? It covers all these bases of how teens are very resourceful and creative when it comes to finding prescription medication. It will also give you the deadly road that they can end up on.
When teens want medicine to help clear up their acne or a strong painkiller for a headache, an alarming number of them skip the doctor and borrow prescription medication from friends, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers based their study on a survey of approximately 1,500 U.S. boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 18. They found that roughly 19.7% of girls and 13.4% of boys actually borrow or share prescription medicine with both friends and family.
- About 7% of older teen girls (aged 15-18) reported sharing prescription medication more than three times.
- Eleven percent of the girls aged 12 to 18 admitted one reason they shared medications is they wanted “something strong for pimples or oily skin.”
- Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported they received prescription medication from a family member.
A survey of 12 to 17-year-olds in the U.S. has found that about 20 percent said they have given their prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Darvocet to friends or obtained drugs the same way, according to a study published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Allergy drugs, narcotic pain relievers, antibiotics, acne medications, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications were the most commonly shared. About one-third of those who borrowed medications said they had experienced an allergic reaction or other negative side-effects as a result.
Tips for Parents
According to the CDC study, most of the adolescents surveyed said they actually had their own prescription for the medication they borrowed from friends. They said they borrowed the medication because they either didn’t have the medication with them or they ran out of it. Others said they shared medicine because they “had the same problem as the person who has the medicine.”
What is the harm in sharing prescription drugs? The Nemours Foundation reports that drugs are tools doctors use to fight infection, treat disease and relieve pain. The right drug, however, must be given to the right child, for the right condition, and taken in the right amount and under the right circumstances to work well.
Taking another person’s prescribed medication puts a teen at risk for overdose, allergic reactions, hazardous interactions with other medications and dangerous health side effects. In fact, the CDC study reported that many teens share the acne drug Accutane, which can result in severe fetal birth defects if a pregnant teen takes only one dose.
As a parent, it is important to familiarize yourself with the basic elements of a prescription:
- How much of and how often the medicine should be taken
- What the side effects and reactions are, if any
- How the medicine should be taken
- How the medicine should be stored
If your doctor prescribes medication for your teen, always look at it carefully before you leave the pharmacy. The Nemours Foundation offers these additional questions to ask your pharmacist:
- Does this medication require special storage conditions (room temperature or refrigeration)?
- How many times a day should it be given? Should it be given with food? Without food?
- Should my teen avoid dairy products when taking this medication?
- Should I look for any special side effects? What should I do if I notice any of these side effects?
- Should my teen take special precautions, such as avoiding exposure to sunlight, when taking this medication?
- What should I do if my teen skips a dose?
- Is it OK to cut pills in half or crush them to mix into foods?
- Will this medicine conflict with my teen’s alternative treatment of herbal remedies?
To ensure that your teen is using his or her prescription medicine safely, the National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information suggests reviewing the following information with your teen and or your physician:
- Talk with your physician about any other drugs – prescription, over-the-counter or illegal – you are taking. Drugs may interact negatively with one another, causing harmful side effects and even causing medications to be ineffective.
- Discuss your medical history with your doctor. Side effects caused by some drugs may worsen other health conditions, even if the medication is used properly. For example, some prescription medications may elevate the user’s blood pressure, causing a serious consequence if the user already suffers from high blood pressure.
- Read the instructions that come with your medication carefully and take the drug exactly as recommended.
- Do not give your prescription medications to other people, and never take prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to you by a physician.
- Throw out expired or leftover medicines.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information
- Nemours Foundation
- Partnership for a Drug Free America
- Get Smart About Drugs
- Journal of Adolescent Health
If your teen is struggling with a prescription drug problem, don’t hesitate to reach out for local help. If they refuse to get help or you find it isn’t benefiting them, contact us to determine if residential therapy would be an option. Exhausting your local resources is always your first path.
StopMedicineAbuse.org is another great website full of information for parents on over the counter drug abuse.