According to a survey conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 2006, 9.8% of adolescents from the age of 12 - 17 have admitted to using prescription drugs for nonmedical use. Marijuana still leads this group as the number one drug abused. (Yep; we often forget that in parts of the country Marijuana is a prescription drug) Prescription Drug abuse among our adolescents is growing; what are they using, what draws them, and how are they obtained?
What are some of the types of prescription drugs being abused by adolescents?
The first group of prescription drugs is considered an opiate. The common prescription drug in this class is Lortab or Vicoden. They are also referred to as hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain reliever. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Some of the common street slang names for them are: Vikes, Viko, Hydro, and Norco. These street names originate from the name of the manufacturer.
The second group of prescription drugs is considered a depressant. Those types of prescriptions are often called Xanax. This is known as a benzodiazepine. They are used to treat panic attacks or anxiety disorders by decreasing brain functions. Some of the common street slang names are: Benzos, Coffin, Footballs, Zannies, and Xanny bars. Some of the slang names refer to the look of the pill. The pill changes in design depending on the strength of it.
The last group is the stimulant class. The most common prescription pills in this class are Adderall XR and Ritalin. These are the most serious of the prescribed drugs. Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine and can be habit-forming. They are prescribed to treat attention deficit hyper activity disorder and narcolepsy. This works by changing the amount of natural substances in the brain. Some of the common street slang names are: A-Plus, Addies, Oranges, Speed, and Sprinkles. Ritalin is a methylphenidate and along with Adderall it is habit forming. They are prescribed for the same things as Adderall and alter the brain in the same way. Some of the common street slang names are: Jonny, Pineapple, Mind Candy, and Vitamin R.
What draws adolescents to abusing prescription drugs?
The first theory is peer pressure. Many parents have heard the statement, everyone is doing it. This is certainly not the case and statistics have proven that.
The second theory is that many adolescents feel that because the prescription drug is manufactured in a controlled setting and they are prescribed by a doctor that they are somehow safe to have. In fact, unless prescribed and used according to the directions, they are not. They all have the ability to cause serious permanent injury and death.
Another theory is that they think they are legal. When doctors prescribe the prescription pills and they are obtained lawfully from a pharmacy, most adolescents don’t get the feeling of possessing them as you would from an underground market. Reality is that possession of all these prescription drugs outside the normal use of medical practice is a misdemeanor crime in most states and depending on the prescription pill can be a felony in some.
Lastly, how are adolescents obtaining these prescription drugs?
Some adolescents attend, skittles, or, pharm, parties. This is a party that each person in attendance brings a prescription drug; usually the ones mentioned in this article and place them into a punch bowl. The variety of prescription pills and various colors give the impression of Skittles candies. They then pass around the bowl with each person selecting a pill. They will take it whole, crush and snort it, or crush and smoke it. They most likely will not know what they have just taken.
Another common way that adolescents get prescription drugs is from their own self diagnosed condition. This is probably the most common way that they are introduced to prescription drugs. Convinced of their own diagnosis they pursue the prescription drugs through other than legal means to treat themselves and rationalize that they are only taking the drugs a doctor would prescribe anyway.
Finally, according to another study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 2005, 15.5% of adolescents indicated that they had been approached by someone selling illegal drugs. What is most shocking is that those adolescents who were approached to try illegal drugs, 61.3% were more likely to try them during their lifetime.
In conclusion, prescription drugs are affecting our adolescents. This is the most rapidly growing area of drug abuse. Learning to identify why adolescents choose certain types of prescription drugs, what attracts them, and how they are obtained could be the difference of life or death. Prescription drugs are not going away. The best thing that we can do as adults, parents, and educators is to become aware of this problem.