Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens on the Rise

A national study has found that teens are misusing and abusing prescriptions drugs at a growing rate – 33% higher since 2008.  The study, released by the Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation found that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription medication at least once in their lifetime.  Specifically, the study found that one in eight teens reported using Ritalin or Adderall without a prescription or when they hadn’t received a professional diagnosis for ADHD by a mental health professional. Many teens also confirmed the latest alarming trend of abusing or misusing drugs found in their own home. The study looked at the growing trend of teens misusing drugs that they don’t need from a mental health standpoint, but that their parents believe will benefit them in terms of better grades and test scores.   As reported by drugfree.org, “Contributing to this sustained trend in teen medicine abuse are the lax attitudes and beliefs of parents and caregivers. In fact, nearly one-third of parents say they believe Rx stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, normally prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can improve a teen’s academic performance, even if the teen does not have ADHD.  Parents are not effectively communicating the dangers of Rx medicine misuse and abuse to their kids, nor are they safeguarding their medications at home or disposing of unused medications properly.” National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, recently held by the DEA and local sponsors, is one initiative that aims to help individuals and their families rid their homes of the unwanted or unused medications that can be abused by teens or others in the home.  The event is held nationally each year in an effort to reduce drug abuse in all age groups.  Steve Pasieb, President and CEO of the Partnership at Drugfree.org said, “Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and try protect their kids.  But the truth is that when misused and abused, medicines – especially stimulants and opioids, can be every bit as dangerous and harmful as those illicit street drugs.”  The Partnership recommends that more mental health assessments should be completed before placing kids and teens on drugs to treat the symptoms of ADHD, and that parents work harder to reduce the availability of prescription drugs in the family medicine cabinet.

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