How much do you know about the Rx addiction crisis in teens?

Over 100 teens per hour, that is about 2,500 per day, abuse prescription medications for the first time in their lives. We outline the significant statistics and what can parents do about it, here.

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The Rx addiction drug crisis affects teens!

When parents or adults think about teen drug abuse, they generally look at alcohol, marijuana or other street drugs. Prescription drugs often don’t seem to be even a blip on the radar.

But the data clearly shows the reality of the dangers of prescription drug abuse for teens. In fact, about one-fourth of teens don’t think their parents care as much if they abuse prescription drugs when compared with street drugs.

The stats speak for themselves

Even more alarming, the CDC estimates that about two-thirds of teens obtain prescription drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinets while others say that they have been freely given drugs by friends or family members.

While some adults who are handing out these medications like candy might have evil intentions, it’s likely that they are doing so simply due to a lack of education. They probably have no idea of the potential dangers of prescription drug use. And the data confirms that teens hold these same beliefs – they simply don’t understand the dangers of experimenting with prescriptions. About 50 percent of them think that it’s safer to use prescription drugs instead of street drugs.

What’s possibly even more frightening is that across the nation, more than 100 teens each hour, or about 2,500 per day, abuse prescription drugs for the first time. This one statistic alone shows that teen drug abuse has escalated to epidemic proportions.

Types of prescription drugs

The mostly commonly abused prescription drugs in the order of their frequency of abuse, include:

1. Opiates and opioids – Like heroin, opiates are derivatives of opium, and popular brand names include OxyContin, Codeine and Vicodin. When an opiate prescription is no longer available, the user might then turn to street drugs.
2. Depressants – Depressants, such as Xanax or Valium, are used to calm nerves and reduce anxiety.
3. Stimulants – Stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, are used to treat attention hyperactive disorder and can cause a dangerous spike in heart rate and body temperature.

Painkillers and teens

Between 1999 and 2012, the rate of death from prescription painkillers for teens tripled. In addition, illegal prescription drug use puts teens at a multiplied risk for other dangerous behaviors, including twice the risk of alcohol abuse, five times the risk of marijuana abuse and as much as 20 times the risk of using illegal street drugs. The data overall shows that in 2012, nearly one-fourth of teens admitted to abusing a prescription drug at least once – an increase of 33 percent since 2008.

Prescription drugs and teen deaths

When a teen dies from prescription drug abuse, it is due to a painkiller or opiate in 74 percent of all cases while about one-third of cases involved depressants. More than one kind of drug was included in some of the deaths. From 2001 to 2011, the number of total deaths more than doubled – 765 to 1,950, respectively.

How parents can fight this epidemic

Parents can combat the epidemic of prescription teen drug abuse by doing the following:

  • Talking with their teen regularly.
  • Addressing the dangers of prescription drug abuse with others.
  • Keeping prescriptions in a safe place and locked up if necessary.
  • Monitoring their teen’s online activity.
  • Properly disposing of unused and expired prescriptions and
  • Educating themselves about the inherent dangers of prescription drug abuse.

For additional information on teens and prescription drug abuse, review the following infographic.

Teen Prescription Drug Use Problems – Infographic

Learn How to Help Teens deal with prescription drug use problems at Sundance Canyon Academy

Teen drug addiction crisis questions

Do you still have questions that you’d like to learn the answers to? Please post them in the comments section below. We try to reply personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries, or we will gladly refer you to someone who can help.

About the author
Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.
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