This is an excerpt from Live Well Comprehensive High School Health With Web Resource by Karen E. McConnell,Terri D. Farrar & Charles B. Corbin.
Table 13.2 describes commonly abused OTC and prescription drugs. In the United States, prescription drugs are the fourth most commonly abused substance by teens, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco or vaping. Prescription drugs are categorized in the following ways:
- Opioids, which are used primarily to relieve pain
- Depressants, which are mainly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants, which are largely used to treat ADHD
The use of prescription drugs, other than as prescribed, by teens is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, affecting teens’ mental and physical health. Teens abuse prescription drugs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is simply out of curiosity, especially when teens have easy access to prescription drugs from their home, family, or friends. Teens may abuse prescription drugs to feel better about themselves and their situations or to decrease physical and emotional pain. Other teens view using prescription drugs as a means to do better in school and sports.
One in four teens reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. Teens are abusing these medicines either by taking more than what is prescribed or by taking someone else’s medicine. Teens may also use OTC and prescription drugs to be more alert or to relax after a stressful time over the next day or two. What they don’t realize is that they can feel sluggish and tired after the effects of the drugs wear off. These feelings can sometimes trigger the cycle to use again because they want to get the good feeling back. Signs that may indicate abuse of an OTC or prescription drug may include changes in appearance, attitude, grades, or sleep; sudden anger outbursts; and lying or stealing.
Reasons for abusing OTC and prescription drugs include the following:
- Prescription drugs can be easy to get from friends, family, and acquaintances.
- Some drugs reduce appetite and are often used for weight loss.
- Some drugs increase alertness and improve concentration.
- Some drugs can make people feel good or get high.
- Some drugs can help people relax.