Teen OTC drug abuse can lead to problems
While most parents are well aware of the dangers of illicit drugs like marijuana and heroin, research now shows that, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older. Most teenagers who abuse prescription drugs are given them for free by a friend or relative. And more teens die from overdoses of prescription opioids than from all other drugs combined, including heroin and cocaine.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioid pain relievers (Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.), stimulants for treating ADHD (Adderall, Ritalin, etc.) and anxiety medications (Valium, Xanax, etc.) The most commonly abused over the counter drugs are cough and cold remedies containing dextromethorphan.
When abused, prescription and OTC drugs can be addictive and put abusers at risk for other adverse health effects, including overdose-especially when taken along with other drugs or alcohol. Use becomes abuse when someone:
Takes a medication that has been prescribed for somebody else.
Takes a drug in a higher quantity or in another manner than prescribed, including crushing tablets to snort or inject the powder. This hastens the entry of the drug into the bloodstream and the brain and amplifies its effects.
Takes a drug for another purpose than prescribed.
Taken as intended, prescription and OTC drugs safely treat specific mental or physical symptoms. But when abused, these classes of drugs directly or indirectly cause a pleasurable increase in the amount of dopamine in the brain's reward pathway. Repeatedly seeking to experience that feeling can lead to addiction. In fact, three recent studies reported that nearly half the young people who now inject heroin first abused prescription opioids.
Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual's life, treatment is not simple. If you're concerned about your teen abusing drugs, start by seeking guidance from a medical professional, behavioral therapist or both.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
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