In many homes across the country, parents, grandparents, and other family members are unknowingly supplying drugs to the teens and young adults who live in or enter their home. They aren’t doing this by selling illegal drugs, but by simply having prescription medications in the house. While most people consider teenage drug use to be the use of marijuana or other street drugs, there are teens and young adults for whom prescription drugs are their drug of choice. Surveys show that 15 percent of seniors in high school use prescription drugs. Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and harmful as street drugs and are often the first type of drug tried because of their easy availability.

Why Prescription Drugs Are Abused

The abuse of prescription drugs occurs for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is the belief that prescription medications are less dangerous than other drugs. Another reason for the abuse of this drug is its availability. Students typically have easy access to prescriptions at home and in the homes of friends. Because most people keep prescription drugs in their bathroom medicine cabinets, students can take them without anyone knowing what they are doing. Prescription drugs that teens commonly abuse include pain medication such as Vicodin or Tylenol with codeine, Xanax and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Signs of Abuse

The signs of prescription drug abuse are similar to the signs of the abuse of other drugs. A parent, teacher or even a friend who fears that a student is abusing prescriptions should look out for changes in appearance and behavior. Lying, performing poorly in school, and isolating from long-time friends are all major indicators of prescription drug abuse. Some drugs have more specific signs. If a child is abusing stimulants, for example, symptoms may include shaking, sweating, unexplained weight loss, dilated pupils and nervousness. A teen using depressants may have slurred speech, loss of coordination, and even runs the risk of lapsing into a coma. For example, abuse of pain medications such as opioids will result in constricted pupils, slow speech, dry skin, and nausea or vomiting.

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Although teens and young adults may think that prescription drugs are less harmful than other drugs, the truth is they can cause serious problems. Prescription drugs are being used for other than what they were prescribed, by people that they were not intended for. Because people may have allergies to the drug or the prescription may be dosed for someone larger, the consequences can be deadly. Some of the negative effects include low or high blood pressure, heart problems, memory loss, and even death. Other complications may cause the teen to perform poorly in school or in sports. Another harmful effect that students may face is addiction or the desire to move on to stronger drugs.

Drug Abuse Prevention and Help

Making prescription drugs less accessible is the key when it comes to prevention. Medications should be kept in a secure location whenever possible, particularly when it is known that a child has abused prescription medications. Hiding them or putting them in a locked cabinet are two ways adults can secure and control access to medications. Monitoring the number of pills or the amount of medication in a bottle is also an important part of prevention. When medications are unused or if they have expired, they should be disposed of properly. Preventive measures should be taken by anyone who has teens and young adults in the home. In addition to removing the temptation of the drugs, parents should also talk with their kids. By having an open discussion, parents can explain the dangers of prescription drug abuse and even discuss any difficulties or concerns that may cause them to turn to drugs.

If a teen or college student is using drugs, it is important for teachers and parents to deal with the problem as quickly as possible. Professional help may come in the form of therapists, the family doctor or counselors. Treatment centers may be necessary for students who have developed an addiction to drugs, such as painkillers. In some cases, medications may be used in combination with therapy to treat addiction.