Are Prescription Drugs The Biggest Danger To Our Youth?

Adolescent abuse of prescription drugs — tranquilizers, stimulants, pain relievers, and sedatives—is a serious health Concern. Going by data sets from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11.7% of 12 to l7 year-olds reported non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs at some point or other in their lives.

In the same way, more than 3.3% of these people reported such use in just the past month. In addition to this, the most recent Monitoring the Future study released the following findings:

  • 4.7% of high school seniors reported past-year non-medical use of OxyContin.
  • 9.7% of 12th graders reported past-year nonmedical use of Vicodin.
  • Past-year amphetamine abuse rates among students stood at 6.8% for 12th graders, 6.4% for 10th graders, and 4.5% for 8th graders.

Even so, most reports show that it is Vicodin which has emerged as the prescription drug that is most commonly abused among adolescents, especially those who have already started engaging in substance use.

Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drugs that have marked effects on the brain, including but not limited to stimulants, opioid pain relievers, and depressants, can all cause physical dependence which could lead to full-blown addiction.

Medications that affect the brain ultimately change the way the brain works — especially when the person uses them takes them over a significant period of time or with keeps stepping up the dosage.

They can also revise the brain's reward system, making it increasingly difficult for the person to feel good or happy without the drug. This could lead to very intense cravings, which also make it that much harder to stop using the drug.

This dependence on the drug happens as the brain and body begin to adapt to having drugs in the system after a while. As the drug use continues, the person may find that they require higher and higher doses just to experience the same effect. This is known as drug tolerance.

When drug use is halted, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms may occur. When people keep using the drug despite a range of negative consequences, it is effectively considered an addiction. When a person is addicted to a drug, finding and using that drug will begin to feel as though it is the most important thing—more important than family, buddies, sports, school, or personal health. They will prioritize drug use over even personal hygiene. This is the reason why so many addicts tend to be unkempt and frazzled.

Why Teens Abuse Prescription Drugs

Teens and young adults have this misconception that the drugs that are prescribed by physicians cannot be harmful in any way. In all honesty, many adults think like this too, but adolescents are a lot more na?ve with regard to this point of view.

They will go ahead and assume that even illicit use of these drugs is alright. After all, the physician prescribed these drugs. More and more teens are self- medicating these days. If they have recurring pains, insomnia, anxiety issues and the like, they'll go ahead and try to self-medicate.

You also have those teens who take prescription drugs to enhance their performances: those who want to study for longer time periods binge on Adderall, Etc. Others dip into prescription drug use to experiment and perhaps get high. Worryingly, many of them down their pills with vodka shots.

In a research study on people between the ages of 12 to 17 who had reported using prescription drugs for a non-medical reason, the following findings were reported:

  • 0.2% reported buying the drug on the Internet.
  • 19% got the drug from only one doctor.
  • 20% bought or took the drugs from a friend or relative.
  • 46% obtained the drugs free from a friend or relative.
  • 5% bought the medication from a drug dealer or other stranger.

These numbers do well to underscore the influence that parents and relatives can have on adolescent access to prescription drugs.

Are Many Youths Using and Abusing Prescription Drugs Today?

While past-year use of prescription drug among 12th graders has slowly but steadily dropped since the year 2015, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly misused substances by Americans who are aged 14 and older, after the two main culprits, marijuana and alcohol.

Possible Consequences

Abuse of prescription drugs may cause life-threatening consequences, including fatality from overdose, particularly when the prescription drugs are combined with other drugs or even alcohol. Depressed respiration from abusing painkillers or heart attack/stroke from abuse of stimulants often underlies emergency room admissions that are related to prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse also appears to be associated with a higher likelihood of risky behaviors in teens and youths in general, including use and abuse of other substances. A recent study has found that teenagers who reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs to get high (as opposed to just self-medicating) were significantly at a higher risk to smoke cigarettes and/or marijuana, abuse alcohol as well as abuse several other drugs. Finally, those adolescents who use and abuse prescription medications risk getting addicted to them, a risk heightened for this age group.

Psychological Effects of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

In the brain, such neurotransmitters as dopamine send messages by attaching to receptors located on nearby cells. The actions of the neurotransmitters and the receptors are what cause the effects from prescription drugs. Each class of prescription drugs works a bit differently in the brain and may cause actions which are similar to some illegal drugs.

For instance, prescription opioid pain medications bind to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors—the same receptors which respond to heroin. These receptors are found on nerve cells in many areas of the brain and body, especially in the brain areas that are involved in the perception of pain and pleasure.

On the other hand, prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin, have similar effects to cocaine, by causing a buildup of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine leading to addiction.

Prescription depressants can also have the effect of great calm and relaxation, in the same manner as the club drugs GHB and Rohypnol. Heroin also has the same set of effects.

What is more, it is true that abusing prescription drugs could retard the brain growth of youths. The brain only stops actively growing and developing at around 25. Using and abusing prescription drugs could get in the way of brain development and cause it to stop way before the ideal age.

On the other hand, developing an addiction or a substance use disorder while still so young makes it a lot harder to shake it off, as the body and brain all develop with the drugs being a major fixture.

Physical Effects of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs can help with medical problems when used as directed. However, whether they are used properly or misused, there can be side effects ? and many of them are negative.

For instance, using opioids such as Oxycodone and codeine may cause you to feel sleepy, sick to your stomach, and constipated. At higher doses, opioids make it difficult to breathe properly and may ultimately cause overdose and death.

Using stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin could make you feel paranoid (feeling like someone is going to harm you even though they aren't). It also can cause your body temperature to get dangerously high and make your heart beat too fast. This is especially likely if stimulants are taken in large doses or in ways other than swallowing a pill.

Taking depressants such as barbiturates may lead to disorientation, sleepiness, shallow breathing, slurred speech and lack of coordination. Persons that misuse depressants on the regular and then desist suddenly may even experience seizures.

In addition, abusing over-the-counter drugs which contain DXM (an ingredient present in cold and cough medicines) may also produce markedly dangerous effects apart from the development of an addiction.

All the effects above make it very difficult for the teenager or adolescent to develop properly. It makes it harder for them to do their schoolwork well, interact in a healthy manner with other people and create solid social bonds. They effectively ruin their potential. They also make it easier to develop illnesses, both physical and mental.

Overdose Risk

More than half of the drug overdose deaths in the United States every year are as a result of prescription drug use and abuse. Deaths resulting from overdoses of prescription drugs have been on the rise since the early 90s, largely due to increases in misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers.

In the year 2017, over 33,800 people passed away from overdosing on prescription drugs. There is some good news, seeing as among young people ages 15 to 25, fatalities from prescription drug use and abuse dipped slightly in 2017. Still, youthful members of society are dying each day.

Mixing different types of prescription drugs can be particularly dangerous. For example, benzodiazepines interact with opioids (pain relievers) and increase the risk of overdose. Also, combining opioids with alcohol can make breathing problems worse and can lead to death.

Are Prescription Drugs the Biggest Danger to Our Youth?

Looking at the information contained here, it is safe to say that prescription drugs are probably one of the worst dangers to American youth. As it is, the country has the highest number of mentally ill adolescents and young folks at any point in its history, and the primary contributor to this is misuse of prescription drugs.

Here are several ways to minimize prescription drug misuse and abuse among young people:

a) Education

One in four teenagers believe that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid and nearly one-third of parents say that they believe that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication can improve a child's academic or testing performance, even if that child does not have ADHD. Parents, children, and prescribers need to be educated on the impact of prescription drugs on the developing brain.

b) Safe Storage

Two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers in the past year say that they got them from family and friends, including their home's medicine cabinets. Safe storage and disposal of medications diminish opportunities for easy access.

c) Prescription Drug Monitoring

Doctors more readily hand out prescription painkillers than they did ten years ago, and, according to some sources, pharmacists do not habitually check prescription drug registries, which help to identify potential over-prescribing and misuse.

In addition, educating adolescents and their parents about the risks of drug misuse and abuse can play a role in combating the problem.