The rates of prescription medication overdoses now surpass those of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine combined. In the past, the two most common mind-altering substances tried by teens were marijuana and alcohol. Recently, teens have identified other mind-substances they use and no longer are they restricted to marijuana and alcohol, teens today report using Ritalin, Adderall, Cocaine, Klonapin, Xanax, Concerta, Vyvanse, and Ecstasy.

More than three-quarters of these substances identified are prescription drugs. A teenager can appear to be the average kid and a parent would never believe they are experimenting with prescription drugs, because the child maintains good grades, is well-liked by teachers and has a positive relationship with their parents.

According to information from the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 90% of prescription drug addicts describe starting to use drugs in middle school or high school. The information is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which reports 25% of prescription drug abusers begin using by the age of 13 years old.

The problem with prescription drug abuse among teens isn’t unique to America, it’s a national problem. The New York Times reports there are an average of 125 overdoses per day in America, with rural areas having higher rates than larger cities.

Prescription drugs can be extremely appealing to teens who struggle with bouts of psychological and emotionally distressing hormonal imbalances, irregular brain development, social and family conflicts. Prescription medications offer an instant escape from feelings of angst and insecurity. After using prescription drugs, teenagers report feelings of confidence and a euphoric sense they’ve never felt before.

Adolescents who have no impulse control, lack foresight, or have low self-esteem are the ones most likely to turn to prescription drugs. To make matters more complicated, many well-educated teenagers think that prescription drugs are “safer” than illicit street drugs.

The Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence reports medical emergencies from prescription drug abuse have increased by more than 132%.

If your teenager experiences severe mood swings, you have a family history of substance abuse, the child has extreme changes in eating or sleeping habits, shows physical indications, loses interest in friends or activities and engages in self-harm, it may be time to consider he or she is engaging in prescription drug abuse. 

Prescription drugs today are more powerful, more addictive and more dangerous than the drugs of the past. Other issues which make prescription drug abuse worse than in the past is that drugs are cheaper and more readily accessible, meaning teens can get them easily with little to no effort.

If you are worried your teenager may be engaged in prescription drug abuse, it’s time to act and talk to them. Educate your child about prescription drug abuse, encourage your local school to address the issues with teachers and children, in order to proactive about the situation. If your child exhibits any of the signs or symptoms described above, consider having him or her drug tested, because the sooner you can a hand on the situation, the better the outcome will be.