By definition, prescription drug misuse and abuse is when an individual takes a medication inappropriately. That means taking more than prescribed by a physician or taking it without a prescription at all. According to a study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prescription drug misuse and abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S. A separate study from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics revealed the same, noting that around 52 million or roughly 18% of Americans aged 12 and older have purposely misused or abused prescription drugs in their lifetime. While prescription drug addiction can adversely affect anyone’s life, it can do quite a number on teens. And According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), since 2014, prescription drug abuse among adolescents has been on the rise.

Why Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teenagers Represents a Substance Abuse Crisis in America?

Aside from destroying their lives when they have so much living left to do, prescription drug addiction adversely affects brain development in teenagers, which also affects their physical health. To appreciate why this is, it helps to have some knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Multiple studies show the human brain does not fully develop until we are in our early- to mid-twenties. To appreciate why this is, it helps to have some knowledge of anatomy and physiology. When individuals are in their teens, the pre-frontal cortex, for example, the part of the brain that makes it possible for us to set priorities, implement strategies, focus, and control impulses, is still developing. The same applies to the outer mantle, the part of the brain that allows us to follow rules, laws, and general codes of conduct. When teens abuse drugs while their brain is still developing, it can damage developing neural pathways. In turn, this negatively affects judgment, which explains why teens struggling with addiction are more likely to contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and engage in polydrug use. Damaged neural pathways also put teens at risk of suffering from the following:

  • Emotional distress
  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares

According to the National Institutes of Health, teens with damaged neural pathways are at heightened risk of struggling with psychosis and depression. The same applies to neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

What Are the Most Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs in America?

Whether they take them along with alcohol or street-level drugs, the prescription drugs teens tend to abuse the most include

Opioids – – Medications in this class are generally used to treat pain. Some of the most popular ones include Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin.

Anti-anxiety medication – This class of prescription drugs includes sedatives and hypnotics. Commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorder, the anti-anxiety medications teens abuse the most are Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.

Stimulants – These prescription-based drugs are popular among high school-aged teenagers and college students because they promote wakefulness while helping them to stay alert. Many teens start out taking stimulants to help them pull all-night study sessions to help ready them for exams. But the more they take them, the greater risk for addiction. Some most in-demand prescription stimulants when it comes to teenagers include Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall XR, Mydayis, and Dexedrine.

What Are the Side Effects of Prescription Drugs Abuse?

The side effects someone will experience when taking prescription drugs will vary depending on their drug of choice.  Someone abusing prescription-based opioids, for example, might experience the following:

  • Bradypnea
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea

In addition to the same symptoms associated with abusing opioids, most people experience dizziness and memory problems when they misuse or outright abuse prescription anti-anxiety medications.  As far as stimulants are concerned, the most common side effects include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Arrhythmia
  • Changes in appetite
  • High body temperature
  • Hypertension
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia
  • Intense euphoria
  • Paranoia

Why Do Teens Take Part in Prescription Medication Abuse?

The reasons teenagers misuse and abuse prescription drugs are not too dissimilar from the reasons adults do.  Some start out experimenting, trying to find a euphoric high that trumps that of marijuana and alcohol.  For others, their addiction to prescription medications is far from intentional.  They begin taking a prescription drug to treat a legitimate medical condition, such as chronic pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, insomnia, and so on, and eventually become addicted to the medication.  The latter explains most prescription medication abuse cases involving teenagers today.

What Can Society Do To Help  Minimize Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens?

Minimizing the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs among teens is a team effort. It will take teachers, churches, parents, and others tasked with looking after the welfare of teens to warn them about the dangers of these drugs.  Further, they should also remind them that just because they’re legal doesn’t mean they are safe for everyone.

All in all, prescription drugs, like their street-level counterparts, can quickly ruin people’s lives.  Bearing that in mind, if you or a loved one has a problem with such drugs, it would be a good idea to seek addiction recovery treatment as soon as possible.