Use of Painkillers Among Teens on the Rise (page 2)
The latest threat in teen drug use may be lurking in your medicine cabinet. Young people's abuse of prescription drugs has surged compared to their use of illegal drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy.1 Tackle this issue and learn more about incorrect use of prescription drugs. Then, talk with your child about the dangers.
A Growing Problem
Data from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that the second most popular category of drug use after marijuana is the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. The number of persons who started using pain relievers nonmedically rose between 1985 and 2002 from about 500,000 to nearly 2.5 million.2 In fact, according to a 2004 study, about 1 in 5 teenagers abused a prescription painkiller to get high.3
By Prescription Only
Modern medicine provides a wide range of drugs that save lives and reduce pain. Before drugs can be used by the public, they are tested and approved for certain uses. For safety, many drugs are available only when ordered by a doctor.
Use as Directed
Medical supervision is vital-even a prescribed medicine may cause harm. Patients put themselves at risk if they take more than the prescribed dose, take medicine when they should not, or combine it with the wrong substances such as other drugs or alcohol.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Misuse or Abuse?
Misuse-Patients may forget or not understand their prescription's directions. They may start making their own decisions, perhaps upping the dose in hopes of getting better faster.
Abuse-People may use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons. Prescription drug abusers may obtain such drugs illegally and use them to get high, fight stress, or boost energy.6
Just about any prescription drug can be dangerous if it is not used correctly. However, these three types are most commonly abused:5
- Opioid painkillers such as codeine, Oxycontin�, Vicodin�, and Demerol�.
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are used to treat conditions such as sleep disorders, stress, and panic attacks. Common CNS depressants include Nembutal�, Valium�, and Xanax�.
- Stimulants, which may be used to treat narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression that has not responded to other treatments. Ritalin� and Dexedrine� are commonly abused stimulants.7
Keep an eye out for prescription drugs that young people should not be taking. Warn your kids about the harm that can result from abusing prescription drugs. Be careful though-too many details may inspire kids to experiment.
Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs can cause dangerous reactions. Use of opioids or CNS depressants over a long period can lead to physical dependence and addiction. High doses of stimulants can lead to several problems:
- Compulsive use.
- Dangerously high body temperatures.
- Irregular heartbeat.8
Stopping use of many of these drugs has risks and should be done under medical supervision.9
Make a Difference
The teen years often can be difficult for young people, including pressures that may tempt them to misuse prescription drugs. Whether for recreation or self-medication, teens may see prescription drugs as easy to get. Some teens may wrongly believe that prescription drugs are always safe.
Parents can make a difference-even prevent tragedy-by being watchful. Be a good listener about what's going on in your child's life. Speak clearly and firmly about prescription drug abuse. Tell your kids that you care about them and that you don't want them to misuse prescription drugs.
- Parents. The Anti-Drug. Parents Take Notice: Your Teen Could Be Using Prescription Drugs, last referenced 3/1/2005.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, November 2002. The Buzz Takes Your Breath Away, last referenced 3/1/2005. (This resource is also available as a print publication.)
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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