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Deadly Prescription Drugs: How They Affect Teens

April 28, 2015

Deadly Prescription Drugs & Teens

Out of Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers, which age group is more likely to abuse painkillers?

You may think that Baby Boomers are more likely to use prescription drugs due to medical problems and physical injuries; however, teens are more likely to abuse prescriptions drugs. In fact, children as young as 12 or 13 years old often start experimenting with prescription drugs.

According to the Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA), millennials are at a greater risk for abusing prescription drugs because they are the most accessible and there is a great misconception that prescription drugs are not as dangerous as illicit drugs. However, most teens and parents are not aware that prescription drug overdoses are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

So where are teens getting all these prescription drugs from?

How Teens Gain Access to Prescription Drugs

Given that Americans only make up five percent of the world’s population, but consume 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs, the easiest place to find prescription drugs is right under their parents’ noses – their own household.

Parents/Guardians/Family Friends

Teens often raid the medicine cabinets of their homes, grandparents or even family friends. Any prescription drug will do, but mostly teens are searching for painkillers. The most common prescription drugs adolescents abuse are opiates or painkillers such as:

• OxyContin
• Roxicodone
• Percocet
• Vicodin
• Fentanyl
• Codeine

Other commonly abused prescription drugs include sedatives (Ambien), stimulants (Ritalin and Adderall), and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, and Ativan).

“Pharm Parties”

Teens often hold “pharm parties”, which are parties where teens gather and collect as many prescription drugs as they can and place them all in a big bowl. The teens then grab as many pills as they can and then swallow them, usually with an even deadlier combination, alcohol. The point is to wait and see what occurs after, which puts teens at an even greater risk of a fatal overdose.

This obviously presents a real problem for prescription drug overdose due to the mixture of alcohol and other chemicals from different, often unknown prescription pills.


Many teens get pills from peers in school. Often, teenagers will sell, buy, and share their prescription drugs that they’ve found in school or bought off the streets and sell it to other classmates who are willing to pay.

Teen Athletes

Sports injuries are often the source of prescription drug abuse for many teens. Male athletes are more likely to be prescribed painkillers for high impact sports like wrestling and football. When teens are prescribed painkillers for their injuries, they are more inclined to use more of the drug then what’s prescribed, either to get back into shape faster or experiment.

No matter how teens begin abusing prescription drugs, the effects can be life threatening. Due to tolerance and curiosity, it’s common for teens to transition from prescription drug abuse to heroin use because the illicit drug is usually cheaper and provides a stronger high.

Ways to Curb Prescription Drug Use in Teens

Look for Signs of Abuse

• Missing medications
• Changes in mood
• Loss of appetite/sudden weight loss
• Restlessness and impulsive behavior

Have an Open Discussion

The best way to curb teen prescription drug use is to be upfront and have an honest, open dialogue with your teen, not a lecture. Discuss the harmful side effects of prescription drug abuse and the higher potential for overdose, especially at parties.

Monitor the Family's Prescription Drugs

The prescription drugs listed above should be either hidden from plain sight or locked away. Teens can’t be monitored 24/7, however, parents or guardians can be more vigilant about the potentially harmful prescription drugs they have in their medicine cabinet or lying around the house. With these tips, you can decrease the chances of teens abusing prescription drugs.

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