Teens and Young Adults: Do You Understand the Dangers of Prescription Drugs?

Posted May 23, 2017

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Summary

  • It is only safe and legal to use medicines prescribed just for you.
  • They are dangerous even if you think they help you.
  • They can hurt brain development and cause overdose or addiction.

What are prescription drugs?

Almost anyone can walk into a store and buy headache or allergy medicine. These drugs may seem to be safe for most people to use without a doctor’s care. They are called over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

You need a note from your doctor to buy prescription drugs. In general, prescription drugs have more risks than OTC drugs. They may be strong or have dangerous side effects. They may carry a risk of addiction. Or they may be for illnesses doctors have to watch carefully. Some prescription drugs, like opiates and stimulants, are called controlled substances. They can be addictive, or habit-forming. Other risks of controlled substances include:

  • Overdose
  • Thinking problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart attack

Before doctors prescribe medicine for you, they gather personal information, including:

  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Allergies
  • Other drugs you use
  • Details of your condition
  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your other activities
  • Your risk of substance misuse

This is how they pick the safest drugs in the safest amounts for you.

What does prescription drug misuse mean?

Prescription drug misuse means taking medicine:

  • Prescribed for another person
  • In higher doses than prescribed
  • More often than prescribed
  • For longer than the doctor prescribed
  • To get high
  • With alcohol or other drugs

What prescription drugs do teens and young adults misuse?

Teens and young adults misuse three main types of prescription drugs:

Opioids treat pain. They tell the brain to make chemicals that make you feel good. Examples include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin®)
  • Oxycodone/acetaminophen (Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin®)

Stimulants speed up brain activity. They treat attention and focus issues, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®)
  • Dextropamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®)

Depressants slow down brain activity. They treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Examples include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax®), diazepam (Valium®)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien®), eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium®)

What are some myths about prescription drugs?

Myth: Prescription drugs are safe.

No! Prescription drugs are only safe if you:

  • Are under a doctor’s care
  • The doctor follows the prescribing guidelines
  • Use the medicine prescribed to you (not to someone else)
  • Follow all your doctor’s directions

Taking medicine prescribed to someone else is dangerous. Thousands of adolescents overdose or become addicted to prescription drugs every year. Early prescription drug misuse can raise your risk of using illegal drugs later in life.

Myth: You cannot get in trouble with prescription drugs.

No! They are only legal if they are:

  • Prescribed to you by a doctor
  • Purchased in a pharmacy
  • Taken for medical purposes

It is illegal to use prescription drugs that do not belong to you. This includes your parent or caregiver’s medicine or giving one to your friend.

Myth: Prescription drugs are not harmful if they help you function.

No! Prescription drugs are meant to help with specific health issues. Some teens and young adults use them to:

  • Stay awake to study
  • Focus better in school or on tests
  • Decrease stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Lose weight

Growing up is hard. You are under a lot of pressure to meet people’s expectations. But misusing prescription drugs only hides your problems. You are risking your life instead of finding a safer strategy.

What is so dangerous about prescription drug misuse?

You may have heard the bad things misusing drugs can do to you. Things like:

  • Health issues
  • School, work, and relationship problems
  • Legal problems
  • Addiction
  • Death

But did you also know that misusing drugs during adolescence could permanently hurt your brain?

Our brains do not stop growing until our mid-20s. The last part to mature is called the frontal lobe. It would be fair to call it the “adult-ing” lobe. It controls things like:

  • Impulse control
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Prioritizing
  • Abstract thinking
  • Understanding consequences

Misusing drugs messes with chemical signals in the brain called neurotransmitters. This can keep them from moving through your brain. Parts of your frontal lobe may never develop properly. This makes it very hard to function like an adult.

Get help

If you or your friends are misusing prescription drugs, get help. You may worry about getting in trouble. But addiction, overdose, and brain damage are bigger trouble. Support and treatment can help you get back on track. Talk to a trusted parent or adult, or call the toll-free number on this site for help.

Resources

Narconon
www.narconon.org

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens
teens.drugabuse.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Abuse of Prescription (Rx) Drugs Affects Young Adults Most." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-rx-drugs-affects-young-adults-most; National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Adolescents and Young Adults." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/trends-in-prescription-drug-abuse/adolescents-young-adults; SAMHSA's "Specific Populations and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse." (2015) www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/specific-populations; Science and Management of Addiction's "The Effects of Drugs And Alcohol on The Adolescent Brain." (2005) www.samafoundation.org/the-effects-of-drugs-and-alcohol-on-the-adolescent-brain.html
Reviewed by Heather Lober, MS, LMFT, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Enrique Olivares, MD, Director, Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • It is only safe and legal to use medicines prescribed just for you.
  • They are dangerous even if you think they help you.
  • They can hurt brain development and cause overdose or addiction.

What are prescription drugs?

Almost anyone can walk into a store and buy headache or allergy medicine. These drugs may seem to be safe for most people to use without a doctor’s care. They are called over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

You need a note from your doctor to buy prescription drugs. In general, prescription drugs have more risks than OTC drugs. They may be strong or have dangerous side effects. They may carry a risk of addiction. Or they may be for illnesses doctors have to watch carefully. Some prescription drugs, like opiates and stimulants, are called controlled substances. They can be addictive, or habit-forming. Other risks of controlled substances include:

  • Overdose
  • Thinking problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart attack

Before doctors prescribe medicine for you, they gather personal information, including:

  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Allergies
  • Other drugs you use
  • Details of your condition
  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your other activities
  • Your risk of substance misuse

This is how they pick the safest drugs in the safest amounts for you.

What does prescription drug misuse mean?

Prescription drug misuse means taking medicine:

  • Prescribed for another person
  • In higher doses than prescribed
  • More often than prescribed
  • For longer than the doctor prescribed
  • To get high
  • With alcohol or other drugs

What prescription drugs do teens and young adults misuse?

Teens and young adults misuse three main types of prescription drugs:

Opioids treat pain. They tell the brain to make chemicals that make you feel good. Examples include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin®)
  • Oxycodone/acetaminophen (Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin®)

Stimulants speed up brain activity. They treat attention and focus issues, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®)
  • Dextropamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®)

Depressants slow down brain activity. They treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Examples include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax®), diazepam (Valium®)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien®), eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium®)

What are some myths about prescription drugs?

Myth: Prescription drugs are safe.

No! Prescription drugs are only safe if you:

  • Are under a doctor’s care
  • The doctor follows the prescribing guidelines
  • Use the medicine prescribed to you (not to someone else)
  • Follow all your doctor’s directions

Taking medicine prescribed to someone else is dangerous. Thousands of adolescents overdose or become addicted to prescription drugs every year. Early prescription drug misuse can raise your risk of using illegal drugs later in life.

Myth: You cannot get in trouble with prescription drugs.

No! They are only legal if they are:

  • Prescribed to you by a doctor
  • Purchased in a pharmacy
  • Taken for medical purposes

It is illegal to use prescription drugs that do not belong to you. This includes your parent or caregiver’s medicine or giving one to your friend.

Myth: Prescription drugs are not harmful if they help you function.

No! Prescription drugs are meant to help with specific health issues. Some teens and young adults use them to:

  • Stay awake to study
  • Focus better in school or on tests
  • Decrease stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Lose weight

Growing up is hard. You are under a lot of pressure to meet people’s expectations. But misusing prescription drugs only hides your problems. You are risking your life instead of finding a safer strategy.

What is so dangerous about prescription drug misuse?

You may have heard the bad things misusing drugs can do to you. Things like:

  • Health issues
  • School, work, and relationship problems
  • Legal problems
  • Addiction
  • Death

But did you also know that misusing drugs during adolescence could permanently hurt your brain?

Our brains do not stop growing until our mid-20s. The last part to mature is called the frontal lobe. It would be fair to call it the “adult-ing” lobe. It controls things like:

  • Impulse control
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Prioritizing
  • Abstract thinking
  • Understanding consequences

Misusing drugs messes with chemical signals in the brain called neurotransmitters. This can keep them from moving through your brain. Parts of your frontal lobe may never develop properly. This makes it very hard to function like an adult.

Get help

If you or your friends are misusing prescription drugs, get help. You may worry about getting in trouble. But addiction, overdose, and brain damage are bigger trouble. Support and treatment can help you get back on track. Talk to a trusted parent or adult, or call the toll-free number on this site for help.

Resources

Narconon
www.narconon.org

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens
teens.drugabuse.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Abuse of Prescription (Rx) Drugs Affects Young Adults Most." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-rx-drugs-affects-young-adults-most; National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Adolescents and Young Adults." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/trends-in-prescription-drug-abuse/adolescents-young-adults; SAMHSA's "Specific Populations and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse." (2015) www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/specific-populations; Science and Management of Addiction's "The Effects of Drugs And Alcohol on The Adolescent Brain." (2005) www.samafoundation.org/the-effects-of-drugs-and-alcohol-on-the-adolescent-brain.html
Reviewed by Heather Lober, MS, LMFT, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Enrique Olivares, MD, Director, Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • It is only safe and legal to use medicines prescribed just for you.
  • They are dangerous even if you think they help you.
  • They can hurt brain development and cause overdose or addiction.

What are prescription drugs?

Almost anyone can walk into a store and buy headache or allergy medicine. These drugs may seem to be safe for most people to use without a doctor’s care. They are called over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

You need a note from your doctor to buy prescription drugs. In general, prescription drugs have more risks than OTC drugs. They may be strong or have dangerous side effects. They may carry a risk of addiction. Or they may be for illnesses doctors have to watch carefully. Some prescription drugs, like opiates and stimulants, are called controlled substances. They can be addictive, or habit-forming. Other risks of controlled substances include:

  • Overdose
  • Thinking problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart attack

Before doctors prescribe medicine for you, they gather personal information, including:

  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Allergies
  • Other drugs you use
  • Details of your condition
  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your other activities
  • Your risk of substance misuse

This is how they pick the safest drugs in the safest amounts for you.

What does prescription drug misuse mean?

Prescription drug misuse means taking medicine:

  • Prescribed for another person
  • In higher doses than prescribed
  • More often than prescribed
  • For longer than the doctor prescribed
  • To get high
  • With alcohol or other drugs

What prescription drugs do teens and young adults misuse?

Teens and young adults misuse three main types of prescription drugs:

Opioids treat pain. They tell the brain to make chemicals that make you feel good. Examples include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin®)
  • Oxycodone/acetaminophen (Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin®)

Stimulants speed up brain activity. They treat attention and focus issues, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®)
  • Dextropamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®)

Depressants slow down brain activity. They treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Examples include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax®), diazepam (Valium®)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien®), eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium®)

What are some myths about prescription drugs?

Myth: Prescription drugs are safe.

No! Prescription drugs are only safe if you:

  • Are under a doctor’s care
  • The doctor follows the prescribing guidelines
  • Use the medicine prescribed to you (not to someone else)
  • Follow all your doctor’s directions

Taking medicine prescribed to someone else is dangerous. Thousands of adolescents overdose or become addicted to prescription drugs every year. Early prescription drug misuse can raise your risk of using illegal drugs later in life.

Myth: You cannot get in trouble with prescription drugs.

No! They are only legal if they are:

  • Prescribed to you by a doctor
  • Purchased in a pharmacy
  • Taken for medical purposes

It is illegal to use prescription drugs that do not belong to you. This includes your parent or caregiver’s medicine or giving one to your friend.

Myth: Prescription drugs are not harmful if they help you function.

No! Prescription drugs are meant to help with specific health issues. Some teens and young adults use them to:

  • Stay awake to study
  • Focus better in school or on tests
  • Decrease stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Lose weight

Growing up is hard. You are under a lot of pressure to meet people’s expectations. But misusing prescription drugs only hides your problems. You are risking your life instead of finding a safer strategy.

What is so dangerous about prescription drug misuse?

You may have heard the bad things misusing drugs can do to you. Things like:

  • Health issues
  • School, work, and relationship problems
  • Legal problems
  • Addiction
  • Death

But did you also know that misusing drugs during adolescence could permanently hurt your brain?

Our brains do not stop growing until our mid-20s. The last part to mature is called the frontal lobe. It would be fair to call it the “adult-ing” lobe. It controls things like:

  • Impulse control
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Prioritizing
  • Abstract thinking
  • Understanding consequences

Misusing drugs messes with chemical signals in the brain called neurotransmitters. This can keep them from moving through your brain. Parts of your frontal lobe may never develop properly. This makes it very hard to function like an adult.

Get help

If you or your friends are misusing prescription drugs, get help. You may worry about getting in trouble. But addiction, overdose, and brain damage are bigger trouble. Support and treatment can help you get back on track. Talk to a trusted parent or adult, or call the toll-free number on this site for help.

Resources

Narconon
www.narconon.org

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens
teens.drugabuse.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Abuse of Prescription (Rx) Drugs Affects Young Adults Most." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-rx-drugs-affects-young-adults-most; National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Adolescents and Young Adults." (2016) www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/trends-in-prescription-drug-abuse/adolescents-young-adults; SAMHSA's "Specific Populations and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse." (2015) www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/specific-populations; Science and Management of Addiction's "The Effects of Drugs And Alcohol on The Adolescent Brain." (2005) www.samafoundation.org/the-effects-of-drugs-and-alcohol-on-the-adolescent-brain.html
Reviewed by Heather Lober, MS, LMFT, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Enrique Olivares, MD, Director, Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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