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Why Teens Abuse Prescription Drugs, Where They Get Them, and How It Impacts Society

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For the future of our nation, we look to the youth of our country to ensure continued prosperity.  We expect them to solve future crises and maintain our status as leaders in business, technology, and defense.  Unfortunately, teen drug abuse prevents many of our youth from taking part in contributing to America’s future.    

Taking a closer look at the subject will help us to better understand why teens abuse prescription drugs and how it impacts society as a whole.

Reasons Why Teens Abuse Rx Drugs Today

It’s no exaggeration to say that teen drug abuse will have an impact on society in the future.  For instance, 17.8% of high school students take prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.  Studies show that many teens who engage in recreational drug use will struggle with addictions for a lifetime.  

Currently, more than 6.5 million people over the age of 12 years use prescription drugs non-medically.  Many of these individuals started their substance use early in life, some as young as 11 or 12 years of age.  

The reasons for early drug use vary but some are common among most teens:

  • To get high.
  • They want to feel better about themselves.
  • To perform better in sports.
  • They think it will help them concentrate better doing schoolwork.
  • Curiosity or risk-seeking behavior.
  • Peer pressure.

Today’s teenagers are always in the spotlight because of social media.  They want to portray themselves as being the life of the party and the most popular person on Facebook or Twitter.  So, they often upload photos of themselves drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, thus encouraging others to follow their example.

Substances Frequently Involved in Teen Drug Abuse

After alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by teens.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug use among teens is on the rise.  Many teens mistakenly believe the drugs are safe because they are prescribed by a physician.  

These are the prescription drugs most commonly abused by teens:

Not to mention the many illicit drugs teens experiment with today.  The opportunities to get high are endless, and far too many teens are suffering fatal overdoses from both legal and illegal drugs.  In many cases, teens buy counterfeit prescription drugs that contain fentanyl which is a deadly substance.

Where Do Teens Get Rx Drugs for Recreational Use?

Teens acquire prescription drugs fairly easily.  In some households, it’s not unusual to find an abundant supply of drugs in the family medicine cabinet or kitchen shelf.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 53% of teens get Rx drugs from a friend or relative.  About 21% get them at school.  More than 4% get pain relievers from a drug dealer or stranger.  Only about 0.2% obtain the drugs from online sources. 

Not only do teens buy drugs online, but they can also get information on how to use them to get high.  Thousands of websites are dedicated to promoting drug use in one form or another.  About 92% of teens go online daily so it’s no surprise that a lot of them are exposed to drugs-related content.  

Dangers of Teen Drug Abuse 

Young people are more vulnerable to the effects of prescription drug abuse for several reasons.  The primary reason is that their brains are still growing and developing.  Especially the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision-making.  The younger a person is when they initiate drug use, the more likely they are to continue using and become addicted later in life.  

The effects of prescription drug abuse on a teen’s mind and body are as follows:

  • Physical Health – Car accidents, injuries, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, unwanted pregnancy, STDs.
  • Mental Health – Depression, anxiety, decreased cognitive abilities, apathy, poor memory, and problems with psychomotor skills.

What Is the Impact of Teen Drug Abuse on Society?

Substance use by teens is often associated with violent crime, which leads to arrests and interventions by the juvenile justice system.  Also, drug trafficking, prostitution, gangs, and youth homicides are among the many problems linked to substance use by adolescents.  

Many of these teens are unable to become contributing members of society.  As a result, they place a financial burden on their community for medical treatment and other services.  When these teens disengage from school, their families, and the community, they deprive society of the positive contributions they could have made.

Can We Prevent Teen Substance Use Disorders?

Parents can’t shield teens from every possible temptation.  But, they can do a few proactive things such as:

  • Learn the warning signs of teen drug use.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol in the presence of teens.
  • Keep track of the teen’s activities.
  • Provide loving, non-judgmental support and guidance.  
  • Keep all prescription medications out of reach.

Specialized treatment programs are available for teens if you suspect your child needs help with substance abuse.  

Design for Change Recovery Can Help End Addiction 

At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the complex mental, emotional, and physical issues that lead to substance use.  That’s why we offer a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment curriculum that works to heal the whole person.  If you’d like to know more about our programs, contact our Lancaster, CA facility today.


Teen Drug Abuse