Prescription drug abuse is on the rise throughout the United States, and teens continue to be the most affected.
It is estimated that each day about 2,500 teens try a prescription pain reliever recreationally for the first time. Prescription drugs are more readily available than ever before. If a person does not have a prescription for a medication, they more than likely have a friend or family member who does. Many believe this accessibility means prescription drugs are safe for consumption. While this can be when they are taken as prescribed, misuse of prescription medication can quickly spiral out of control into addiction and dependency. Prescriptions are written for a person’s unique needs and doctors take stock of a variety of factors before handing them out to patients. While a medication may be safe for one person, it can have dangerous and potentially deadly consequences for someone else.
Sometimes prescription drugs are used to help assist in the drug addiction recovery process. Click here to learn more about it.
In 2005, 4.4 million teenagers admitted to abusing prescription painkillers, 2.3 million abused a prescription stimulant, and 2.2 million abused over-the-counter drugs. Based on surveys, teens are approximately 14 years old when they begin experimenting with substances. Many teens who begin abusing prescription medication do so for perceived positive side effects. In some cases, teens use prescription drugs to improve concentration or feel more energized, while others may use them in an attempt to lose weight. Many begin to experiment due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Regardless of the motivation, misinformation can lead teens down dangerous paths of addiction and dependency.
According to surveys, almost 50 percent of teens believe that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs, and nearly 70 percent say they get their drugs from medicine cabinets at home. Taking prescription drugs in any way that is not intended is a form of abuse. Taking another person’s medication—even if it is for the drug’s intended purpose—is a form of abuse. Taking your own medication in any way other than it is prescribed is also a form of abuse. Studies show that teens who abuse prescription drugs are far more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, or other illegal street drugs as compared to teens who do not use them. Some prescription medications, such as opioids, have compounds that are found in other illicit substances. Many who become addicted to painkillers find themselves struggling with heroin addiction later in life because it is easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription opioids.
In order to address the growing problem with prescription drug abuse, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) have been created to serve multiple purposes. These programs work to help stop the practice of “doctor shopping” and other drug-seeking behaviors, and also work to hold clinicians responsible for inappropriate prescribing and dispensing. Although these programs work to address these areas, they still uphold patient privacy. PDMPs ensure patient information is protected and secure, and is inaccessible to others unless the information is pertinent to an active investigation or relevant to a patient’s care.
Since the implementation of PDMPs, several states have seen reductions in unwarranted prescribing. States with PDMPs tend to have some of the lowest rates of prescribed painkillers, and physicians in these states are able to accurately access the needs of patients. They can identify whether or not a patient has a history of substance abuse before administering treatment, which helps them to prevent drug abuse, doctor shopping, and other forms of abuse.
Stopping prescription drug abuse among teens requires education and a holistic approach to treatment. Since many teens begin abusing drugs due to outside influences or out of a “need,” identifying the influences on addiction is key to providing effective treatment. In addition to treating the addiction itself, behavioral therapies are necessary in order to address cravings, triggers, and relapse. This includes the use of individual therapy, group therapy, and other forms of treatment to address individual needs. Depending on the type of prescription drug abused, teens may require medications to overcome withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In most cases, these forms of treatment cannot function effectively alone. Combining various forms of therapy and treatment often results in the best outcome and the highest likelihood of long term sobriety.