Prescription Drug Abuse And Teenagers: What You Need To Know June 17th, 2021 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Prescription Drug Abuse And Teenagers: What You Need To Know

Prescription Drug Abuse And Teenagers: What You Need To Know

prescription drugs and teenagers

Prescription drug abuse among teenagers is a growing problem in the United States. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans over the age of 14 years old.

More than five million high school students have abused prescription medications at some point, and these numbers are continuing to grow. Shockingly, 27% of teenagers mistakenly believe that prescription drug abuse is safer than abusing illegal street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

Adding to the problem is that many parents seem to share this misconception. According to a poll from 2012, almost one-third buy into the notion that Ritalin or Adderall can boost a child’s performance—even if they have not been diagnosed with ADHD. Additionally, 20% of parents actually admitted to willfully giving their children a medication they had on hand that had not been prescribed by a doctor.

All of this, combined with how easy it is for children to access prescription medications, is adding to the prescription drug abuse epidemic among teenagers.

Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teenagers

Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs among teenagers include Vicodin, Adderall, Oxycontin, Ritalin, Xanax, and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

Teenagers abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, including to party, get high, stop pain, ease anxiety, escape daily life, focus better, deal with the stress of school, and help with schoolwork.

Many teenagers obtain prescription drugs by going into the medicine cabinet of a family member, friend, or acquaintance. Since prescription medications are usually readily available at home, teenagers typically don’t have to go far to find ways to get high.

Although it’s not as common, some teens may turn to the Internet to buy drugs. They either look for websites that don’t require the approval of a doctor to buy prescriptions or find ways to connect with drug dealers who will supply them with drugs.

The Internet is a great resource for teenagers to learn about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but unfortunately, it also contains a handful of information about how to use prescription drugs to get high, what combinations work best, and where to buy them.

Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse And Teenagers

  • More than 1,600 teenagers begin abusing drugs each day.
  • Nearly one in four teenagers in the United States say they’ve misused or abused a prescription drug.
  • One in five teenagers who’ve abused prescription drugs did so before the age of 14.
  • Twelve percent of teenagers report using an over-the-counter cough or cold medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teenagers reported using pain medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, to get high within the past year.
  • Fifty-six percent of teenagers get prescription medications from a parent’s medicine cabinet.
  • Emergency room visits as a result of prescription drug abuse increased by 45% between 2004 and 2010 among children under the age of 20.

Prescription drug abuse isn’t only a problem among teenagers. According to a 2007 report by the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of college students abusing prescription drugs increased:

  • 343% for opioids like Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin.
  • 93% for abuse of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall.
  • 450% for tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium.
  • 225% for sedatives like Nembutal and Seconal.

Additionally, in 2010, the abuse of prescription medications was highest among young adults 18-25 years of age, with nearly six percent reporting non-medical use within the past month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.” While using prescription drugs may seem more like a “rite of passage” to your child, it can quickly turn into a deadly mistake.

As a parent, the best thing you can do is talk to your child about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medications. It’s not an easy or comfortable conversation to have, but it is an important one. If your child is showing signs of drug abuse, you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms.

Getting Help For Your Child

If your child is struggling with prescription drug abuse, the best thing you can do is get them the help they need. At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we offer a variety of treatment programs for teenagers and young adults struggling with substance use disorders. Our team of professionals is here to help your child through the entire process, from detox and therapy to aftercare and living a fulfilled life in recovery. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.


Adolescents And Young Adults. (2016, August). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

Prescription Drugs. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

Prescription For Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicines. (2012, August). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.