These words are uttered by our nation’s youth at an alarming rate. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older. Teens most commonly abuse pain relievers such as OxyCotin, Vicodin, simulants such as Ritlan or Adderall, and sedatives and tranquilizers such as Valium or Xanax. Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication for someone else, or takes their own prescription medication in a way not intended by a doctor, or for a different reason such as getting “high” or “numbing out,” or to help improved focus on schoolwork. It has become a growing issues as the dangers associated with abusing prescription medications, particularly pain medication are severe. When prescription drugs are taken as directed from a physician, they are usually safe. It requires a health care professional, such as a doctor or psychiatrist, to determine if the benefits of the medication outweigh any risk of side effects. However, when taken in different amount or abused, and for purposes other than prescribed, the medication affects the brain and body in ways similar to illicit drugs.
Prescription drugs can be habit forming and addictive and put a person at risk for harmful health issues, such as overdose, especially when taken with other drugs or mixed with alcohol. Mixing different kinds of prescription drugs can be particularly dangerous, for example benzodiazepines interact with opioids and dramatically increase the risk of overdose. More than half the deaths in the United States each year are caused by prescription drug abuse. In the last decade, the number of deaths from abused prescription drugs has amplified. Prescription drugs are easier to obtain that street drugs, and most youth get prescriptions drugs they abuse from friends or relatives.
Prescription drugs are usually common medications family members or friends may be prescribed to deal with a variety of mental or physical health symptoms. Due to the commonality, availability, and thought that prescription drugs come from a doctor, youth have a mistaken belief that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs because they “know where they’re coming from.”
One way to take action and protect your children and their friends is to secure your medications in a locked cabinet or lock-box. Keeping track of how many pills are in each prescription or pack of medication will allow for accountability of what should remain in the bottle. Also, keeping tabs on how many refills on each medication are left, including your youth’s medications, will ensure for proper distribution of medications. Discussion with family, friends and your children about prescription drug safety and abuse can be a powerful tool to keeping everyone safe. Inner Door Center is a Michigan licensed substance abuse treatment center. We are here to help you and/or your loved one who may be struggling with prescription drug abuse. For more information, call 248-336-2868 or visit our website at www.innerdoorcenter.com
To learn more on this topic or to find tips on how to start hard conversations please visit:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA):
National Institute Health on Drug Abuse (NIH)- Treating Prescription drug addiction:
Oakland County Health Division: Teen Prescription Drug Abuse:
Article by Alexandra Crosson, LLMSW