Preventing Teen Prescription Misuse
As kids transition into middle and high school, teachers and families are tasked with educating teens on making healthy, informed decisions. Young teens begin learning about the dangers of alcohol and drug use, but the conversation about the dangers of prescription drug use is often overlooked. America’s Pharmacy has created this guide to help families navigate the conversation with teens, so they know the dangers, identify the signs, and prevent their teens from the misuse of prescription drugs.
Knowing the Facts About Prescription Drug Use
Prescription drug use is considered the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, surpassing heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.1 While teens may think taking prescription drugs is safer than commonly known drugs, the consequences are just as severe and harmfully impact growing brains and bodies. Adolescent brains are actively developing functions such as:1
- Strategy formulation
- Attention span
- Impulse control
- Understanding rules, laws, and codes of social conduct
Prescription drugs are usually safe when administered and monitored by a physician to treat a specific diagnosis. Teens taking prescription drugs administered by their physician should be closely monitored by their parents, who should be aware of the side effects. Like any drug, prescription drugs can alter judgement and inhibition, putting teens at risk. If the prescriptions are not properly monitored and begin to be misused or abused, prescription drugs can have consequences that vary from change in mood to addiction or death.
Dangers of Prescription Drugs
More than half of the drug overdose deaths in the United States each year are caused by prescription drug misuse. Prescription drugs are produced as opioids, stimulants or depressants. Each type presents its own side effects and risks;2
- Opioids: affect the same parts of the brain as heroin, which can cause drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and, depending on the amount taken, slowed breathing.
- Stimulants: similar side effects to cocaine, which may include paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and an irregular heartbeat, especially if stimulants are taken in large doses or in ways other than swallowing a pill.
- Depressants: cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, and seizures upon withdrawal from chronic use.
These side effects can be avoided or managed when teens are prescribed medication but pose serious threats for abuse and overdosing when taken without a prescription. Mixing different types of prescription drugs together or mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can also be extremely dangerous.
The Risk of Addiction to Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs, taken for long periods of time, change the way our cognitive reward system works. Without the prescription drug, it’s difficult to feel good, and cravings for the drug become stronger, consequently leading to doing whatever it takes to get the prescription, even if it is illegal. As the drug is taken for longer periods of time, users build up a tolerance and may require larger doses to get the initial effect the prescription drug provides which can also contribute to dependence and addiction.
Know What to Look For
Contrary to the misuse of alcohol and drugs, recognizing misuse or abuse of prescription drugs in teens can be difficult. Teens may not show an immediate or identifiable change, but the effects of medication can show in a variety of ways. Here is what to look for if you suspect your teen is misusing prescription drugs:3
- Hanging out with a new or different group of friends
- Not caring about their appearance
- Struggling with schoolwork and/or lower grades
- Missing classes or skipping school
- Losing interest in their favorite activities
- Getting into trouble in school or with the law
- Developing different eating or sleeping habits
- More conflict with family or friends and/or pulling away
How to Prevent the Misuse or Abuse of Prescription Drugs
Prevent your teen’s misuse or abuse of prescription drugs through discussion, safe prescription storage, and prescription drug monitoring.4 Start by talking with your teen about the prescription drugs they may currently be taking, and the negative effects prescription drugs can have on their mental and physical health if abused. Ask the pharmacist what side effects to expect or be concerned about if they occur when picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Inquire about any side effects your teen may be experiencing once they begin taking their prescription and remind them to let their physician know if their reactions change to their prescriptions.
If your child isn’t taking prescription drugs, it’s still important to discuss that there may be some in the house from other family members and that a prescription that is not specifically for them can cause your teen harm. Store any prescriptions in the household in a place that can easily be monitored and even administered by adults. Secure prescription drugs like other small valuables in your home, such as cash, jewelry, and personal information. Last, any unused or expired prescriptions should be safely disposed of through a drug disposal program.
Save on Prescriptions for Your Family
For families with teens who are safely using prescription drugs, using a prescription discount card at the pharmacy can provide cost savings. Simply use americaspharmacy.com to redeem your prescription discount card online, or search for a prescription coupon before heading to the pharmacy. You can present the prescription coupon at the pharmacy counter.