Adolescent and teen prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic mirroring the crisis in the general population. The lack of information targeted to younger age groups coupled with how easy it is to obtain prescription drugs from family and friends sends the message that there is no real danger.

Doctors dispense prescription drugs, so they must be safer to take than street drugs such as cocaine and marijuana, right? Unfortunately, many young people operate under this common misconception. In fact, abusing prescription drugs can be as dangerous and addictive as abusing illegal street drugs.

Young people are experiencing life-threatening side effects from using prescription drugs in the wrong way and exposing themselves to potential addictive substances. According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young people who start off abusing prescription medication are more likely to report subsequent abuse of illegal street drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

More than two million kids report abusing prescription drugs in a given year, and these drugs are abused by kids at a higher rate than any illicit drug other than marijuana.  A recent study of 12-year-old adolescents found that prescription drugs were their drugs of choice.

Young people are still growing. Their bodies are constantly changing to eventually become healthy adults. Abuse of certain types of prescription drugs can have a significant effect on adolescent and teen brain development, while other drugs can damage organs, such as kidneys.

Additionally, young people with a family history of alcohol or drug abuse are particularly susceptible to developing addictions from prescription drug abuse.

Many teens that abuse prescription drugs are not trying to get high, but are using them to help them deal with an underlying problem such as anxiety. So parents need to understand physical or emotional problems their teen may be facing, which need to be addressed. It’s not enough to simply tell them not to use drugs. Parents need to understand what’s going on in their teens’ minds – what kind of stresses they feel.