• Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

    Prescription drug abuse occurs when medicines are taken without a doctor’s prescription or are taken in dosages not advised by the doctor. This is becoming a common practice among teenagers and reasons for indulgence include getting high, treating mild pain or nervousness, weight loss etc. Examples of prescription drug abuse include drinking cough medicine from the medicine cabinet at home and taking pain killers meant for parents. Over the years, teenage prescription drug abuse has become a major cause of concern. In the last 10 year period itself, there has been an 85% increase in prescription drug related deaths in the US [1]. With more than one-third of prescription drug users being teenagers, the number of teenage deaths has also been on the rise.

    Commonly abused prescription drugs

    Commonly abused prescription drugs can be divided into 3 broad categories:

    • Opioids or pain relievers – This includes drugs like Fentanyl (strong pain killer used in post surgery pain), Morphine (powerful painkiller and highly addictive), Oxycodone HCL (pain reliever for alleviating moderate to severe pain) and Codeine [2]. These drugs go by street names such as Hillbilly heroin, Percs, Happy Pills, Vikes etc.
    • Central nervous system depressants – This includes tranquilizers like Barbiturates, Benzodiazepine (found in Valium), Flunitrazepam and sedatives like Zolpidem and Zaleplon. Their street names are Candy, Downers, Barbs, Red birds, Phennies, A-minus, Zombie pills etc. [3]
    • Stimulants – This includes anti depressants like Amphetamines (used for treating ADHD and sleeping disorders like narcolepsy), Dextroamphetamine and Methylphenidate. Common street names include Skippy, Vitamin R, Bennies, Black Beauties, Speed, Uppers etc.

    Harmful effects of prescription drug abuse

    Prescription drugs have many harmful effects which can cause permanent damage and even death.

    • Opioids like Codeine cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing, irregular heart beat and seizures in extreme cases. Morphine is a highly addictive drug which can cause psychological changes. Serious side effects include depression, unconsciousness and death. Fenatynyl can cause weakness, drowsiness, fainting and coma.
    • Central Nervous System Depressants like Barbiturates cause paranoia, high degree of excitability or irritation, suicidal thoughts and memory impairment. Benzodiazepines can disrupt motor senses, cause lethargy, impair memory, cause vertigo, stuttering, constipation, lack of hunger, vomiting etc.
    • Stimulants – They are highly addictive as they mimic the reaction caused by other illegal drugs. Amphetamines can cause panic attacks, delirium and even heart failure. Methylphenidate can cause high blood pressure, paranoia, psychosis, heart problems and strokes.

    Signs of teenage prescription drug abuse

    Teenage prescription drug abuse is easy to identify as they have some common side effects. These include change in sleep habits, fluctuation in energy levels, moodiness, decrease in concentration levels (identifiable through a drop in grades), loss of appetite, weight loss, insecurity and secretiveness. If the teenager in question starts to exhibit more than a few of the above symptoms, then chances are that he or she might be involved in some kind of drug abuse. In such a case, it is better to err on the side of caution and a prescription drug abuse test should be undertaken.

    Prescription drug abuse screening and tests

    There are many ways to do a prescription drug abuse test. Blood tests are a quick and easy way of checking for abuse. Since the teenager should be checked at the time of suspected abuse, home multi-drug testing kits should be used. Drug abuse screening tests (DAST) are easily accessible and can be used. Another way of performing prescription drug abuse screening is to check the medicine cabinet at home. Missing medicines and too many empty medicine bottles in the trash are important signs of prescription drug abuse.

    Teenage prescription drug abuse has shown a disturbing upward trend in recent years. Simple steps taken at the right time can prevent the problem from gaining uncontrollable magnitude.

    References:

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/sep/24/national-campaign-against-teen-prescription-drug-a/

    http://pact360.org/images/uploads/general/Prescription_and_Over_the_Counter_Cough_Medicine_Guide.pdf

    http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_rx1.php

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