Be on the lookout for prescription drug abuse in teens

By Kim Livingston Ten 16 Recovery Network

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Medications have a mind altering property — which is why they work so well — and because of that, they are sometimes taken for reasons or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed.

Prescription and Over the Counter drugs are, along with alcohol and marijuana, the most commonly abused drugs by Americans 14 years of age and older.

Monitoring the Future is a research based study conducted by the University of Michigan through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The survey measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use, and their related attitudes of such drugs among eighth and 12th grade students. The 2012 results show that after marijuana, prescription and OTC drugs account for most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders in the past year.

According to the 2011-12 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth survey for Osceola County, 51 students in middle school and high school reported taking a painkiller such as OxyContin, Codeine, Percocet, or Tylenol III without a doctor’s prescription. Fifty one students in middle and high school also reported they were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property by someone during the past 12 months, and 27 students reported taking a prescription drug such as Ritalin, Adderall, or Xanax without a doctor’s prescription.

Teens and adults often think that prescription and OTC drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but this is only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. When abused, medications can be just as dangerous and addictive as illegal drugs. People can overdose on medications just as easily as street drugs. The Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 2011 shows higher rates of death from abuse of opioid pain medication than from abuse of all illegal drugs.

Unaware of the dangers of sharing medications, NIDA reports that people unknowingly contribute to this form of abuse by sharing their unused pain relievers with their family members. Most meds are dispensed orally in tablets, however abusers sometimes crush the tablets and snort or inject the powder to speed up the entry of the drug in the bloodstream and brain which increases its effects. Taking medications to get high is one of the main reasons people abuse them.

NIDA reports that ADHD medications like Adderall are also abused by students seeking to improve their academic performance. Although ADHD medications can boost alertness, there is little evidence they improve cognitive functioning for those without a medical condition. ADHD medications are stimulant drugs and can sometimes have an opposite effect to what is desired. In a 2007 Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) study, more than 70 percent in the survey reported adverse consequences from taking ADHD drugs non-medically, such as sleep difficulties. More than 60 percent reported that the drugs made them irritable, and more than 30 percent said the drugs gave them headaches.

Most teens who are abusing medications will say they get them from family and friends. The 2006 survey from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) shows that almost 70 percent of teens illegally obtain medications from their home or their friend’s homes.

Signs your teen may be abusing drugs include a dramatic decrease in grades, hanging out with drug using friends, dropping out of sports or extra curricular activities, isolating themselves from family, acting very secretive, sunglasses at inappropriate times and any other behaviors that may be abnormal for your child.

Simple things parents can do is monitor the medications in the home, lock them up if you can and dispose of any expired or unwanted medications at a local disposal site such as law enforcement. Medication disposal boxes are located at the Sheriff’s Dept., Reed City Police Dept. and Evart Police Dept. and are available any time the lobby is open.

For more information, please contact Kim Livingston at Ten 16 Recovery Network at (231) 527-2000 or email to