A new study by Quest Diagnostics shows an overall decline in the number of adolescents misusing prescription drugs (70% in 2011, 52% in 2014), one in two adolescents misuse their prescription medications. Drug misuse is considered anytime a patient is using or combining non-prescribed drugs or skipping doses in a manner inconsistent with the physician’s directions. Dr. Leland McClure of Quest Diagnostics said although our nation is making good progress to discourage drug abuse and misuse, “we have a long road ahead before we can declare victory on the prescription drug epidemic.”
Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription from a doctor, in a way other than ordered by the prescribing physician, or for the experience or feelings elicited. Some commonly abused medications include opioids (usually used to treat pain), central nervous system (CNS) depressants (treat anxiety and sleep disorders) and stimulants (treat ADHD).
Why are teens misusing prescription drugs?
Teens abuse prescription medications for a variety of reasons: to get high, to party or to manage stress in their lives. Some teens abuse stimulants to give them additional energy or focus throughout their school day. Stimulants (such as Ritalin and Adderall) are commonly abused in the midst of studying or taking tests. Other teens use pain relievers (OxyContin, Xanax, etc) to cope with academic, emotional or social stress. Lastly, some use prescription amphetamines to lose weight or steroids to bulk up. Overall, prescription medications are extremely easy to obtain. 62% of teens get the medications from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Only a small amount of teens get these medications illicitly from doctors or over the internet.
Prescription drug abuse can lead to a variety of negative effects, including addiction and a fatal overdose as a result of mixing medications. Of those who reported non-medical use of a prescription drug, 14% met criteria for abuse of or dependence on the drug.
The prescription drug epidemic is not limited to just adolescents. Quest showed that all patients are at equal risk of prescription misuse. The high rate of misuse (53%) was seen across all age groups, genders and socioeconomic statuses. There are some drugs that are more commonly abused based on age groups:
-Children under the age of 10 years old: amphetamines and opiates
-10-29 years old: marijuana and opiates
-30 years and older: oxycodone and opiates
A recent study published in the Journal of Rural Health as a part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that teens who live in rural areas and small cities are more likely to abuse prescription opioid painkillers than those living in large urban areas. Rural teens are 35% more likely and small urban teens were 21% more likely to abuse opioids than urban teens.
“Some parents don’t even know their children are addicted to painkillers because their kids are functioning well in everyday life,” said Shannon Monnat, an assistant professor of rural sociology, demography, and sociology at Pennsylvania State University, in a statement. “Opioid abuse is different from drinking, for example, because parents can usually tell if their child is drunk, and it’s even different from marijuana use because there are behavioral differences that they may be able to notice if their kid is smoking weed.”
Want to help combat prescription drug abuse among youth? Join the National Family Partnership in the “Lock Your Meds” campaign. http://nfp.org/lym/