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Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teenagers

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Discussion
  4. Conclusion


Drug abuse has always been a really important issue but in a recent trend prescription drug has effected a lot of young people. In the journal by Grace Dammann and Esta Soler “Prescription Drug Abuse: A San Francisco Study” it is stated that “Prescription” means those drugs which can be obtained only with the help of a legal prescription, but the way they are obtained are illegal. Prescription drugs are generally barbiturates, sedatives, minor tranquilizers, and amphetamine. It is a really important to address this issue because not only teenagers now are the future generation but also because also because prescription drugs are made especially to help people suffering from some disease. A normal person taking does drugs will have a lot of side-effects and once they are addicted to it they have a huge probability of overdosing. In the journal by Richard A. Friedman, M.D. “The Changing Face of Teenage Drug Abuse — The Trend toward Prescription Drugs” it clearly states that teenagers using illicit drugs like ecstasy and cocaine have decreased and even alcohol and tobacco abuse is in all-time low. But the use of prescription drug have increased.

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Literature Review

As stated above from the journal by Richard A. Friedman, M.D. “The Changing Face of Teenage Drug Abuse — The Trend toward Prescription Drugs” it tells us that using of illicit drugs by 8th grader have decreased by more than a third and 12 grader have decreased by 10 percent. It is also really good to know that alcohol and tobacco consumption is at all-time low but the sad parts comes when we come to know that the consumption among prescription drugs among those teenagers have increased. One of the most common abused prescription drug is oxycodone, which is an opioid pain reliever. It is mention that around 5.5 percent of 12th grader have tried oxycodone, and trying is the first step towards getting addicted to something. The main reason for adolescence and teenagers to get abused by prescription drug is due to the fact that it is easily available apart from the street, it can be obtained from friends and parents who are prescribed to it. Adolescence and teenagers who are also exposed (in the sense that their parents, friends or someone they know take them) to prescription drug can be their step towards drug abuse.

Other than oxycodone, stimulants are also very popular among the drug abused teenagers. Stimulants generally include prescribed ADHD medication like Adderall (amphetamine) and Vvyvance. In the article “Medical and nonmedical stimulant use among adolescents: from sanctioned to unsanctioned use” by Christiane Poulin it points out some interesting observations. A self-report questioner was given to a sample of random students of class 7,9,10 and 12. With a 99 %( 13549) response rate with a mean average age of 15.2 years. It was found that 5.3% of the students said that they use medical stimulants in the last 12 months while 2.6% reported use of it in the last 30 days. Out of the 5.3% of the students who used stimulants 14.7% of them have provided stimulants to someone else, 7.3% have sold, from 4.3% stimulants were stolen and 3.0% of them were forced to give to someone else. From 1990-1995, 3 times more prescription were given to youths with highest increase in high school students (311%). The increase in number is a concern because more prescription are provided more drugs will flow in the grey-market, which will be more accessible to youth without a prescription.

In the article “Medical and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs among Secondary School Students3” by Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D., M.S.W., Carol J. Boyd, Ph.D., M.S.N. and Amy Young, Ph.D. a web based survey was given to students from class 7 to 12 to study the use of prescribed drug (opioid, stimulant, sleeping, and sedative/anxiety medication) among prescribed and not prescribed user in a racially diverse Detroit metropolitan area. Their second objective was to study the drug abuse with those drugs. It was observed that 17.5% reported both prescribed and non-prescribed use while 3.3% reported only non-prescribed use. The most widespread non-prescribed drug used by the students was pain medication (17.7%), followed by sleeping (5.9%), seductive (3.5%) and stimulants (2.4%). Female (22.2%) used more non-prescribed medication as compared to men (12.3%). The main reason for which girls are using more non-prescribed drugs is mainly because of their exposure to medication or not going for treatment for their symptoms and taking the medication from their friends or other family members. It was also observed in the study that white 12th grade students (15.9%) were more inclined towards the use of non-prescribed opioid medication as compared to African-American students (3.5%).

Another interesting observation can be seen at the article “Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use among Adolescents.” by Jason A. Ford in which he states that students generally take prescribed drugs to improve intellectual performance, increase concentration and alertness, relieve pain, experiment, and get high. The main source of influence are friends and family member. The data collected for this study was from National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2005 where there were 18678 respondents from 12 to 17. Nonmedical prescribed drugs were described by NSDUH as “use without a prescription from a doctor or use for the feeling or experience caused by the drug.” The mean age of the sample is 14. From the sample around 9% responded to the use of non-prescribed drugs, where 7% used pain relievers, 2% use tranquilizer, 2% use stimulant and 1% use sedative. It was also observed that students who had a stronger bond with their parents are less likely to use drugs to respect their relation. It is also interesting to note from this study is that females are more like to suffer from drug abuse (narcotic analgesics and tranquilizers ) as compared to male. There is also a direct link between lower income families and prescription drug abuse, mainly children from lower income families are less likely to have a good insurance which may make them to illegally obtain drugs as their last resort and later get addicted to them. In the rural area street drugs are not available easily so there have been instances where children gets abused by prescribed drugs, one on the prescribed drug which have made a name in the rural area is oxycodone which is also referred to as “hillbilly heroin”.

Just like “hillbilly heroin” another common choice of prescribed drug use is Xanax also know by z-bars, bricks and Benzos.On the article “The Global Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse: The American Experience” by Ferris Roger Byxbe, Martin Guevara Urbina, it shows a great study on how prescription drug abuse stated and travelled to America. According to partnership for a Drug-Free America one out of five have admitted abusing non-prescribed drugs, and according to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health Prescription drugs are the biggest threat to children between the age of 12 to 16 years old. One more reason why as stated on the article why prescription drugs are a great threat is because those drugs don’t have to be smuggled or produced in a make shift lab. Poisoning death have increased by 113 percent between 2004 to 2012 among the children of 12 to 21 years. Xanax which is a depressants is mainly taken orally or snorting to get a Euphoria state and ADHD drugs like Adderall are taken to increase concentration and energy. One more scary thing about opioid user is the fact that when they get tolerated by prescribed drug they resort themselves to heroin as mention in “Driven by prescription drug abuse, heroin use increases among suburban and rural whites”


We see that now a day’s prescription drug abuse is a really important matter to our society and more efforts should be taken by the government and NGO’s to discuss about it and to prevent awareness. Prescription drug are the most use illicit drug and especially by the young children. This is a very big concern because once the children run out of money or increase the tolerance for those prescribe drug they are more prone to go into heroin which is cheaper and provide a better high. Since it shows that children with stronger bond with parents have less chances of getting abused by prescribed drugs, so there should be special bonding times where the bond between children and their parents increase. On more way is to provide children with more co-curricular so that they are motivated enough to live the health life and not get distracted by drugs. Also parents should make sure that they don’t keep any of their own prescribed drugs on the reach of their children so that they don’t have any opportunity to try them. There should also be random drug screening on those schools where there has been a history of drug abuse with strict penalties for students who don’t clear it. There should also be awareness classes during the early class of the children about prescription drug prevention which explain them about the long term effects of those drugs. At present it is really sad to look at the increasing number but with proper awareness it can be stopped before it is too late.

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We have seen that drugs like oxycodone, Xanax, Adderall are being widely misuse. In fact the number of children legally prescribed those drugs have increased 3 times from 1990 to 1995 which indirectly put more of the prescribed drugs on the illegal market and also read that 7.3% of the prescribed patients sell their drugs to others. It is also high time to educate the children especially to the girls (22.2%) since they are more incline to use non-prescribed drugs as compared to boys (12.3%) that prescription drugs may be legally produced but they can do harm more than illegally produced drugs. So the first step should be able to educate the children that prescribed drugs taken without prescription can be as very dangerous as other illegally produce drugs like heroin and cocaine.

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