Parents, your worries about whether or not your teenager will be tempted to abuse drugs may start closer to home than you think. Your medicine cabinet is a prime target for teenagers looking to get high by taking your prescription medication. It turns out that prescription drug abuse is rapidly increasing, and possibly serving as a gateway drug to the use of street drugs.
By the numbers
The number of Americans abusing prescription medication is higher than the number of people using heroin and cocaine combined. And like a lot of unwanted behaviors, that trend is carrying over into the younger generation. According to a recent poll, more than 50 percent of teenagers in the United States admitted to stealing medication from their parents or their friend’s parents.
What drugs are abused?
Sedatives, tranquilizers, uppers and pain medication are the most commonly abused prescription medications among young people. Teenagers may turn to sedatives or tranquilizers for help through a stressful time in their lives. Some kids like the opposite effects of feeling revved up, much like being on speed. Abusing Ritalin and other attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs may also result in weight loss, a side effect embraced by teenagers struggling with their weight. Check your medicine cabinet for one of the three most commonly abused prescription medications:
Why do kids abuse prescription drugs?
- Peer pressure
- To feel more relaxed or more energized
- To help them study for an exam or stay up all night to finish a paper
- To lose weight
- To have fun
Combining prescription medication with cold medicine, antihistamines or alcohol can intensify side effects. Maybe you’ve recently purchased cough syrup at the drug store and been asked for a photo ID before you were allowed to purchase the medicine. That’s because of recent laws cracking down on the abuse of an ingredient found in cold medicine. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is fine in small doses of cough medicine. But it can cause hallucinations and a distorted sense of reality if taken in large doses.
What can be done?
Talk to your kids about the dangers of abusing prescription medication. Prescriptions are only safe for the person whose name is on the label. Using someone else’s prescription can result in seizures or death. It’s also against the law. Your child might assume that he’s not engaging in criminal behavior because the pills came from a doctor. But taking Vicodin that aren’t yours can land you in jail, much the same as buying street drugs. Abusing prescription medication can also lead to a dangerous road of drug or alcohol addiction.
Are prescription medications the new gateway drugs? Photo courtesy of joguldi.