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Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse among Teenagers

Abuse of Prescription and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs

Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs constitutes usage for a purpose other than what the medication is initially recommended for by a proper medical care provider. Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs among young people aged 12 to 17 is rapidly becoming a significant concern in America as there are over 2 million individuals engaged in such behavior. Most teenage drug users abuse prescribed medications more so than they do methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine put together. Research has also shown that within a year, almost 85 percent of teenagers abuse street drugs, in 75 percent of cases the drug of choice are prescription pills. Interestingly, recent polls suggest that adolescents believe over-the-counter and prescription drugs are not addictive and produce less harm than abusing the illicit drugs, even when they are not prescribed by a medical care professional. Most opt for prescription painkillers instead of street drugs because the former are not again the law, it is less disgraceful to abuse prescription than street drugs, and finally because they believe that the parents would not be as enraged if they found out their child was abusing over-the-counter rather than illicit drugs. The fact of the matter is that abusing any kinds of drugs leaves the individual with equally adverse outcomes. There have been many incidences reported of severe poisoning and death cases induced by over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse. The parents and close family members play a crucial role in reducing the number of teenagers who abuse OTC or prescription drugs as there is a lot these drugs found in their homes. Further, most American teenagers report getting the drugs from friends or family members or simply taking them without anyone knowing about it, so in order to protect the children the parents must be engaged in their lives as much as possible. Also, most teen prescription and over-the-counter drug abusers start around the age of 13, a period when parents still have a strong influence over their children. In addition, those drugs are very easily accessible for free or very little financial compensation, which makes them the perfect commodity for teenagers. This is further supported by the fact that majority of adolescents consider getting prescription medications easier than getting street drugs. As prescription drugs are so easily attainable many teenagers who otherwise would not take illicit drugs will abuse over-the-counter or prescribed medications. The kinds of drugs that have been abused the most by adolescents are various types of stimulants used to treat ADHD, different kinds of painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medications. The only illicit drug that has been abused more often than prescription or over-the-counter drugs by adolescents in America is marijuana. Not surprisingly, a number of adolescent drug abusers will mix prescription and over-the-counter drugs with either alcohol or a type of street drugs, which makes for a dangerous combination.

Over-the-Counter Drugs - A Risky Combination

Among the OCT drugs, cold and cough remedies are particularly popular given that they produce the desired effects and are easily attained. For instance, over 3 million teenagers in America have abused these types of medications. Those particular drugs have had the most popularity among high school students. Less than half American teenagers suppose that abusing cold and cough medicines can have adverse consequences. As previously mentioned, combining these drugs with other street substances can be particularly threatening as the outcome has often enough been deadly. Alcohol and marijuana are the most widespread drugs that are combined with prescription or over-the-counter medications. In addition, in the past 15 years there have been reports of an increase of accidental poisoning and death cases due to overdoses from prescription painkillers, which is to a large extent attributable to teenage drug abuse.

Parents Are Unaware and Underestimate Their Influence

Research has shown that many parents do not take prescription drug abuse as seriously as street drug abuse while at the same time they do not pay enough attention to their children’s abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. One of the easiest ways to reduce the number of adolescents who are abusing these drugs is to engage the parents in the problem actively as a home medicine cabinet is the main source of the drugs. Less than half the parents believe that abusing prescription drugs is not as harmful than abusing illicit drugs, but are not communicating those beliefs to their children. Scientific data reveals that parents are about twice as likely to talk to their children about the dangers of using street drugs than they are about the problems that could be caused by abusing over-the-counter or prescription medications. Not surprisingly, teenagers whose parents feel strongly about the troubles that are brought on by drug abuse are far less likely to abuse any kind of narcotics.

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