Prescription Drug Addiction

In the United States, almost every conceivable illness could be treated with a medication. In fact, many patients don’t consider a trip to the doctor’s office complete unless they emerge with a slip of paper they can take to a pharmacy and trade for prescription drugs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were 3,703,594,389 retail prescription drugs filled at pharmacies in 2010 alone. We are a country suffused with prescriptions in almost every conceivable way. It’s easy to understand, therefore, why so many teen addictions begin in the medicine cabinet. Teens can get access to a wide variety of drugs, and they may even believe that the drugs they use recreationally are safe, simply because the drugs have been created in a laboratory and prescribed by a doctor.

Teen prescription drug addictions may be prevalent, but they certainly aren’t inevitable. By keeping a close eye on medications, and staying alert for signs of addiction, parents can do their part to help protect their children from facing the serious consequences associated with prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Drugs of Choice

While prescription painkillers remain the most popular choice among teens, they are not the only drugs that teens abuse. In fact, parents who focus solely on controlling the storage and intake of prescription painkillers may be missing obvious culprits of abuse and leaving their children exposed to other addictions.

For example, many teens develop addictions to stimulant medications, such as Dexedrine and Ritalin. These drugs may be remarkably easy for teens to access, as their peers may take these medications to assist with childhood-related illnesses such as ADHD. Availability may not be the only thing that lures teens to stimulants. According to the organization Parents. The Anti-Drug, stimulants hold an appeal for overachieving teens looking for a way to stay awake for long periods of time, focused on their homework and their studies. Stimulants seem to provide these teens with the ability to “get ahead,” and this extra advantage can quickly become a full-blown addiction.


On the flip side, some teens develop addictions to depressants such as:

  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Phenobarbital
  • Xanax
  • Klonopin

Again, teens may be able to steal or buy these drugs from friends, or they may have family members who take the drugs to treat a medical condition such as anxiety or insomnia. Teens may find these drugs appealing as they allow them to sleep comfortably and feel relaxed, regardless of the pressures they are enduring due to work, school and social issues. As the addiction progresses, these teens may find that they cannot sleep without the help of these medications, or they may find that they feel anxious or stressed without the drugs. This could lead them back into use and addiction.

Modes of Abuse

Media reports have suggested that teens take prescription drugs like this on a recreational basis in party situations, bringing all of the drugs they can find to a party and dumping them in a bowl for everyone to sample. It might sound scary, but according to an article in the magazine Slate, there has been no comprehensive proof that such parties exist. And, in fact, the belief in these parties may have to do with disbelief about addiction in teens. In short, many teens are extremely savvy about the drugs they use, going so far as to ask about the strength of the pills they buy, and demanding proof that the drugs are name-brand varieties, rather than generic formulations. These aren’t teens who are using any drug they can find in order to have a good time. These are serious drug users who know what they want in the drugs they intend to abuse, and they may even know what dosage will provide them with the effects they desire. This is truly the behavior of an addict, rather than behavior commonly seen in a recreational user. It’s a scarier picture to contemplate.

prescription drug abuse Teens may simply swallow the drugs whole, or they may crush the pills and snort them. Some prescription medications are bound up with time-release molecules, allowing small doses of the medication to suffuse through the body over a long period of time. Teens who crush the pills and snort them, or chew the pills and swallow the bitter powder, may get around this time-release function and access the full power of the drug all at once.

Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Addiction

Some teens may experiment with prescription drugs from time to time, but they may never develop the compulsive use symptoms that are so common in addictive disorders. There are other teens, however, who are at higher risk for developing an addictive issue.

These are common risk factors, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • A history of addiction to other substances
  • Multiple friends who abuse drugs
  • Parents with a history of addiction issues
  • Easy access to prescription drugs
  • Lack of knowledge of the dangers of prescription drug abuse

This last risk factor may be the most important. Many teens honestly believe that the prescription drugs they abuse aren’t harmful, especially if they live with or know someone who uses the medication under the direction of a doctor. These teens are on a dangerous path if they continue to abuse these drugs, as they may be flooding their bodies with chemicals. Those chemicals can do significant and long-term damage that can make it even harder for the teen to recover from addiction later in life.

At Teen Rehab, we’ve made it our mission to help teens understand the danger of prescription drug abuse. We link teens to rehabilitation centers that can provide the education and medical assistance needed in order to recover. If you’re missing pills from your medicine cabinet and you believe your teen is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, we urge you to contact us to find out more about how we can help your teen recover.

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