Prescription Drugs

Abused by Teens

Prescription drug abuse covers a wide range of substances, including opioids and other stimulants and depressants. There is a false perception that because substances are prescribed by a doctor, they are safe.

Why Teens Shouldn’t Use Prescription Drugs

When used as directed, the rate of addiction to prescription drugs is minimal to zero. However, the use of drugs outside a doctor’s direct orders can be deadly.

Prescription drugs on the street are known by various names including Benzos, tranks, sleeping pills and Xanies.

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Drug overdose is now the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States, especially when combined with alcohol. One of the main drivers in this statistic is prescription opioids (National Safety Council).

Pills on the Brain

Teens who misuse Adderall in middle school or high school are more likely to abuse marijuana, prescription tranquilizers, prescription painkillers, or cocaine as adults (Evolve Treatment).

 Tips for Parents – What to Look For

Any drug readily available in the bathroom cabinet holds the risk of abuse by teens.


Prescription opioids include common painkillers such as Oxycontin. They create numbness and drowsiness when abused. Overuse of these drugs can cause respiratory illness due to slowed breathing. When combined with alcohol, they are life-threatening. Opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Methadone


As the name suggests, stimulants increase brain alertness and activity. When abused, they create a form of high. Substances like Adderall may also be abused by students in order to study or “remain productive.” Stimulants include:

  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
  • Dextroamphetamine/Amphetamine combination product (Adderall®)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®)

Depressants & Sleep Medication

The opposite of stimulants, depressants slow down brain activity and are prescribed for sleep disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, or stress. Abuse of these prescription drugs may be due to external stress in the user’s life. Medications include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride (Librium)

How can I tell if someone is abusing prescription drugs?

Watch out for missing or misplaced medication or secretive behavior in teens. Signs for prescription drug abuse include:


  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Confusion/drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed reflexes/poor decision making



  • Insomnia
  • Agitation/alertness/paranoia
  • Irregular/fast heartbeat
  • Reduced appetite
  • High body temperature



  • Memory problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Slowed speech/concentration

Talk to teens about Prescription Abuse.

Have a conversation with your teens about prescription drugs. When talking, remain calm and keep an open mind to create an honest dialogue. Refrain from harsh judgment, but aim to promote awareness of the following:

  • The dangers of building a tolerance to substances
  • The risk of overdose
  • Healthy habits for stress and anxiety relief
  • Your kids can always call you at any time of day, judgment-free, for a safe ride home from a dangerous situation

Data and statistics for this website are obtained from trusted sources like the CDC and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For more information, please contact us.