Teen prescription drug abuse is on the rise but it can be difficult to know the difference between use and abuse. Understanding the attraction of prescription drugs for teens, how teens access drugs and what influences decisions to use can be helpful in recognizing symptoms of possible prescription drug abuse or addiction.


Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse ranks second only to marijuana among teen users. Teens sometimes take prescription drugs for an illness and feel no danger exists to using the drugs. Studies demonstrate some dangers do, in fact, exist for teen prescription drug users, particularly when the drugs are not used properly or according to prescription.



Monitoring the Future produced a study in 2013 which looked at the severity of the prescription drug problem in teens. In 2013, it was noted 4.6% of teens from ages 12 to 17 misused prescription drugs. The numbers climbed as teens got older. Emergency room visits escalated each day in 2013 for the following drug-related reasons:

  • Pain relievers
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Narcotic pain relievers
  • ADD or ADHD medications


Using Prescription Drugs

Several factors contribute to teen drug abuse. Risk-taking behaviors go up among teens who love to seek new ways of creating a high which can increase the likelihood of teen drug misuse. Other reasons may include the following:

  • Physical or psychological enjoyment of the drug
  • Peer pressure
  • Ease of availability
  • Belief drugs are safe, not addictive or OK to use without prescription (not realizing it is illegal)


A teen who misuses prescription drugs may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Lower grades
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes to appetite
  • Continued fatigue
  • General health complaints
  • Mood swings
  • Secretive behavior
  • Unexplained physical, behavioral or emotional changes


Knowing a teen’s behavior can help in spotting changes which may indicate a possible problem with drug use.


Suggestions and Tips

Parents and caregivers can begin to learn about teen prescription drug abuse by reviewing the following with teens. Sharing the information as a child grows can support understanding of the risks and dangers posed when teens misuse prescription medication. Teens need to know:

  • Proper uses of medication and power
  • Learn use of medications, including risks and benefits
  • Acknowledge risks escalate if a drug is abused
  • Understand responsibility when it comes to safe use of prescription drugs
  • Ask for help if a problem arises
  • Speak with a doctor or treating physician about side effects of drugs


Some proactive measures can support a healthy line of communication between parents and teens regarding prescription drugs. Keep track of prescription medications in a safe location and address any concerns with a doctor. Speaking directly to a teen about use of prescription medication can open the door for the teen to ask questions or address concerns later.


Hired Power is committed to supporting families dealing with teen drug abuse. If you believe your teenager is misusing prescription drugs, we can provide support and resources to guide your entire family through the challenge of addiction. Contact us to find out how to get started.



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