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Lily Lu, MBA, MA, MFTi Therapist San Jose Therapist
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Self-Medicating with Prescription Drugs

Some 25% of teens:

The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey reported that “prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by twelfth graders, after alcohol, marijuana, synthetic marijuana and tobacco. Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report the use of other drugs.”

As we all know, when a doctor prescribes medicine, it treats our medical problems effectively and safely. These Rx drugs taken in a form such as a pill gets to the brain slowly and, at a dose that treats the issue, but not overwhelms the system – both reducing the potential for addiction.

The most common types of Rx drugs being abused are:

Just like illicit drugs, the abuse of these Rx drugs can have powerfully negative effects in the brain and body. Opioid painkillers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin; prescription stimulants have the same effects as cocaine.

These OTC medicines are obtained from the medicine cabinet in the family’s and friends’ homes. Such abuse is now the leading cause of deaths from car crashes. Emergency room visits due to such accidents from the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs more than doubled between 2004 and 2010. In drug overdose deaths, opioid painkillers were the most commonly found drug, accounting for almost 40 percent of these deaths.

“Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and want to 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….As parents and caring adults, we need to take definitive action to address the risks that intentional medicine abuse poses to the lives and the long-term health of our teens,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. 

You can help your kids be aware that, if someone they care about is abusing or misusing prescription drugs, encourage that person to talk to a parent, school guidance counselor, or other trusted adult.