Teens and Prescription Drugs

Teens and Prescription Medicines

Close up image of three prescription medicine bottles.

When taken as directed, prescription
medicines can prevent and cure diseases. But if they are used without a prescription or
misused, they can cause serious physical and mental health problems.

A growing number of American teens are
using prescription pills to get high. In fact, prescription medicine abuse is common in all
parts of our society. It ranges from the inner city to suburbs and rural areas. New
substance abusers ages 12 and older use prescription medicines more than any other illegal

Some teens fake symptoms to get a
prescription. Or they take someone else’s pills. Some mix medicine with alcohol. Some take
more than the recommended dose of their own medicine. Any of these examples of misuse can
cause serious, even deadly results. These include overdose, addiction, seizures, stroke,
and even death.

Many young people abuse prescription
medicines because they believe they are safer than street drugs and legal. They are wrong.
These pills can be just as dangerous if not taken correctly.

Dangerous doses

A risky activity among some teens
is called “pharming.” Teens trade and mix medicines, then take a mix of pills. This is
often done along with alcohol or cough medicine to get high. Some teens take several
pills at a time. Others swallow them by the handful, often not knowing which medicines
they are combining.

Open market

Prescription medicines are free and
easy to find in parents’ and especially grandparent’s medicine cabinets. Teens can also
get them from school friends who have prescriptions for them. Or from friends who have
stolen them from family members.

Teens can also get prescription
medicines online through illegal websites that don’t ask for a prescription or a health
exam. Other websites provide information about how to get high using certain
prescription pills by themselves or in combinations.

Many teens don’t know that getting
prescription pills online or on the street without a prescription is illegal and can
lead to arrest.

Reasons for use

Teens abuse prescription medicines
for many reasons. These include boredom, wanting to escape their problems, or simply to
get high.

What parents can do

Talking with teens about healthy ways to cope with their challenges can help them deal with stress or unhappiness in positive ways.

If you believe your child could be
using prescription medicines for nonhealth reasons, talk with your child’s healthcare
provider or a mental health professional. Prescription abuse is hard for people to beat
on their own. Especially if it includes addictive pills. Most abusers need the help of a
substance abuse counselor.