Is My Teen Abusing Prescription Drugs?

How to Know if Your Teen is Abusing Prescription Drugs

Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Having to deal with a teenager can be difficult, but dealing with one who has an addiction can feel almost impossible. Teens can go through all sorts of addictions. One of the most common is prescription drugs. This fact can be something that can come as a surprise to most parents.

Prescription drugs don’t carry a smell like alcohol, or marijuana, and other drugs, making them a little harder to detect. It can be devastating to find out that your teen has prescription drug abuse, but rest assured, there is help.

This article will help you understand teen prescription drug abuse and its potential risks, as well as signs to look out for and how to prevent it.

If you suspect your teen of using prescription drugs, please reach out to a recovery specialist at (888) 906-0952.

Table of Contents

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse is More Common Than You Think

Teen prescription drug abuse is more common than you might think. A survey reported that 17.8% of high school students took prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription at least once in the past year.  Prescription drugs are third in the ranking of most abused drugs for teens, after alcohol and marijuana.

It is quite surprising to see just how many teens are abusing prescription drugs. The drugs taken included: Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, Ritalin, or Xanax. In the circles of high school and university students, Adderall is one of the most popular prescription drugs.

Study drugs like Adderall can help students stay focused when working on school work. Adderall is also popular because now, more than ever, more kids are prescribed Adderall. Since they have access to it, prescribed can sell them to their friends or other classmates with ease.

There are many causes for teenage prescription drug abuse. Stress and anxiety are big factors in why they do turn to prescription drugs. We have all been there before; going through the teenage years can feel daunting.

It can be a time of uncertainty when you are trying to figure out who you are. This unsureness of self makes some teens want to self-medicate by taking prescription drugs to cope with life’s troubles. They may feel they have to succeed in any way possible, and drugs like Adderall can help them perform better in school.

Body image issues are a big problem with teens, and some may use steroids or diet pills to get their bodies in shape. Though, of course, sometimes they use drugs to get high plain and simple.

A teenager is curious by nature, and sometimes that curiosity leads to taking risky behaviors as trying out different drugs. What makes matters worse is that they don’t always consider the consequences.

Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

There are many consequences that prescription drugs can bring to a teen. It should be stated that these risks are indeed severe. There seems to be a misconception that prescription drugs are less harmful than other kinds of drugs, which is not true. The side effects of prescription drugs are quite similar to that of other drugs.

The side effects of prescription drugs include:

  • paranoia
  • high body temperature
  • irregular heartbeat
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • slow breathing
  • fatigue
  • disorientation
  • lack of coordination
  • seizures

What makes matters worse is that prescription drugs are not supposed to be taken recreationally like other kinds of drugs. They are specifically meant to treat a certain ailment, whether it be pain or psychological.

Doctors have to analyze a patient and do a proper background test to ensure what they are prescribing will benefit the patient. If other people are taking the patient’s prescribed drugs, that will cause even more detrimental problems. Their bodies may not react well to the effects or the amount of dosage that is prescribed. It can easily cause someone other than the patient to overdose if they want to take it recreationally.

Addiction to prescription drugs can happen quickly, and doctors do their best to make sure the patient understands this. But that information can get lost or not reach another person who wants to take the drugs.

When a teenager undergoes these side effects, it will hinder their school performance and personal life. They will be so occupied at the thought of using drugs that everything they are supposed to be responsible for won’t be fulfilled. This lack of responsibility will eventually cause more strain between a teenager and their parents. Unfortunately, a parent may think that some of these side effects might be typical teen behavior, which will make matters worse.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

Every parent needs to look out for the signs of prescription drug abuse in their teenager. The health side effects have already been mentioned in the previous section. However, this section will discuss the behavioral signs to look out for.

One of those signs briefly mentioned is that they will stop fulfilling their daily responsibilities. They may stop doing their homework, stop attending class, and stop doing their chores around the house.

An addict may want to avoid their parents, and they will become more isolated staying inside their rooms often. They may display extreme acts of being pleasant one day, usually due to being high, then another day, they are hostile.

An addict’s behavior may get so bad that they steal drugs or money to pay for drugs, eventually getting in trouble with the law. This also extends to looking out for the signs in their group of friends as well.

If you recognize these signs in your teenager, it is important that any confrontation is met with empathy. It is normal for a parent to feel upset and angry, but shouting or yelling at your teenager will only make matters worse.

This is the philosophy of any kind of addiction. Remember, there is a reason why your teen is using in the first place, and that reason is associated with problems in their own lives. It is also best not to jump to conclusions.

A parent should make sure these signs are being displayed in their child. Don’t try and get your teen recovered through your means, either. Once a teenager has been addicted to prescription drugs, the best solution is to let a rehab recovery center treat them.

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How to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

Minimizing the chance of your teenager developing prescription drug abuse is essential. This is especially the case if they have been prescribed pills by a doctor. The ways to go about this are quite simple and don’t involve being hyper-vigilant on your teenager.

First and foremost, it is always necessary to make sure that your teen is educated on prescription drugs regardless of whether they have a prescription. It is in the parents’ best interest to ensure that their children know how dangerous prescription drugs can be if abused.

The education is also met at school with their classes on health and wellness. However, as a parent, you shouldn’t just rely on them to get all the information they need from there. Educating them also shows that you care for their well-being and allows for a chance to speak to your teen in an adult manner.

Another way to prevent teen prescription drug abuse is to monitor your prescription drugs in the house. This can be the case if your teen has their prescription or someone else in the family does.

One of the major ways prescription drugs are abused by teens is because of the ease of access. Two-thirds of teens have misused prescription drugs due to the ease of access in their home’s medicine cabinet. To ensure this doesn’t happen, make sure you place all prescription medication in a safe and secure location.

If you teenager needs to take a prescription pill, give the pill to them yourself. Also, keep watch on how many pills are in each bottle. You don’t have to make a count every single day, but be mindful about this. Teens and prescription drug abuse is common, so a parent needs to make sure that they take on these preventative measures.

How to Get Help for a Teen Who is Abusing Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse among teens is something that all parents should be aware exists. Even if your teen has developed an addiction to prescription medication, it doesn’t mean they are a lost cause. They can and will be treated at an effective rehab facility.

A rehab facility will make sure you are updated on all the forms of treatment they will provide for your teenager. They will let you know how your child is doing in treatment. There will also be family therapy in which you can be a part of where you will be able to build a better relationship with your child and to understand the reasons as to why they have been addicted.

All a parent can do in a situation like this is get their child treated and listen to their own child’s concerns. Please don’t think less of your teenager because they have an addiction. It does not make them a bad person. Love is essential, especially in a family. Let them know that you are there for them and will support them by any means.

If you have read this and believe your teen is addicted to prescription drugs, please call an addiction specialist immediately at (888) 906-0952.




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Our writers are experienced in everything related to addiction, mental health, rehab and recovery.


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