Health Magazine

Teens Are Abusing Prescription Drugs… And Starting Younger and Younger

Posted on the 05 June 2012 by Rmbf @rmbfkids

Written by: Leigh Bonacum
Date: May 22, 2012

The drug epidemic plaguing our youth is a breed of monster different from that of twenty years ago. Many parents have the misconception that drug deals are held in darkened alleyways with a strange man lurking in the shadows, trying to peddle his wares to the unsuspecting teen strolling by. They presume their child would never associate with those types of people. They rarely consider the drugs in their very own medicine cabinet. Or their neighbor’s cabinet.

Prescription drugs are the second most abused illegal substance used by teens today, with marijuana still holding the number one spot. In fact, more people abuse prescription medication than heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. The use by adolescents is steadily rising. At alarming rates.

Why? Kids are under the false impression that because they are prescribed by doctors, they aren’t dangerous. A study found that almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs. They are also easily accessible and, often, free. 60%-70% of those surveyed said that they’ve obtained pills from their home medicine cabinet.

The age that children are beginning to use prescription drugs is also getting younger. While previously believed to be a ‘college-aged’ trend, a study found that the actual age is much younger, occurring in mid-adolescence. Doctors at Michigan State University published a report to ‘Online First by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine’ trying to identify when children are most likely to start using prescription pain relievers to get high or for other non-medicinal purposes.

“With the peak risk at age 16 years and a notable acceleration in risk between ages 13 and 14 years, any strict focus on college students or 12th graders might be an example of too little too late in the clinical practice sector and in public health work,” the authors conclude.

Many prescription pain medications are opiates, such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. Opiates are derived from the same chemical base as heroin and can be just as addicting and harmful. The number of deaths due to prescription drug overdose has surpassed many of the street drugs. Methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin account for just 39% of all overdose deaths, while 45% are attributed to prescription pills.

Dentists are the second highest prescribers of immediate-release opiates in the United States, often prescribing these medications in quantities in excess of what is needed by the patient.

Most children will, at some point, need to have dental work performed. Dentists will often recommend that your child has his or her wisdom teeth extracted between the ages of 16-21. No parent wants to see their child hurting…and we all know that certain procedures and extractions can be painful. Prescription medication is often necessary and effective when dealing with mild to moderate pain. If and when medication is prescribed, parents need to be diligent in their supervision!

Keep all medications in your possession, always! It might be your child’s name on that bottle, but ultimately, it is your responsibility to ensure they are taking it exactly as prescribed. Pay attention to how many pills have been taken and how many should remain. Vicodin has an average street value of $3.00, per pill!

You wouldn’t dream of sending your sixteen year old upstairs with a bottle of whiskey and telling them to take one sip. The same logic should apply to any controlled substance, even when prescribed by your doctor or dentist.

For more information on prescription drug statistics, please see:

[i] Stephanie Golubic, DMD, MBE; Paul A. Moore, DMD, PhD, MPH; Nathaniel Katz, MD; George A. Kenna, PhD, RPh; and Elliot V. Hersh, DMD, MS, PhD.  “Opioid Prescribing in Dentistry.”  CDEWorld.  n.d.  Accessed May 22, 2012.

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