Despite being administered by a physician or prescribed by a doctor, prescription drugs are some of the most dangerous substances rigged up against our youth today. Unfortunately, it is these exact substances that have become the drugs of choice for many adolescents and young adults, with nearly 7,000 new initiates of prescription drugs a day. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 1 in 4 new users are young males between the ages of 12 and 25.
There are many reasons that prescription drugs have become increasingly popular among younger demographics: For example, the majority of early nonmedical users obtain prescription drugs for free from friends or relatives. Many teens feel it is very easy to access prescription painkillers, sedatives, stimulants, and more from a simple reach into the family medicine cabinet. All the while, misusers continue to abuse prescription drugs (as opposed to other illicit substances) because they don’t see the danger in these legal medications, or do not fear what will happen if they “get caught” using.
Over 20 percent of teens feel that there will not be harsh repercussions for prescription drug misuse in comparison with illegal drug abuse. The reason is largely due to the fact that many people today do not feel there is any risk in popping prescription pills. Yet with thousands of youth overdosing on these prescription drugs each year, this unapprised perception could not be farther from the truth.
It is important to inform our youth that prescription drugs pose much more danger than they perceive, and that they are in fact some of the most addictive drugs on the market. From opioids to depressants, the following are the most highly addictive—and available—drugs out there today:
- Amphetamines – Known as “Speed” on the streets, amphetamines are drugs prescribed to treat conditions that dispel wakefulness and alertness, such as narcolepsy or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Amphetamines are known for their fast-acting, energizing and euphoric effects. The drugs’ positive effects are quickly outweighed by the negative, however, as amphetamine use is eventually followed by a hard hit of exhaustion, thus leading a user to take another pill. The most common amphetamine brand name is Adderall, which is often used amongst students as a “study aid” or “party drug.”
- Xanax – You’ve likely heard of this benzodiazepine before. Xanax is commonly prescribed to treat panic and anxiety disorders. Its popularity among young adults is predictably a result of its calming effects, allowing a user to relax or sleep without worry. The nonmedical use of Xanax, however, can cause a body more distress than a user would imagine. Xanax depresses the central nervous system and slows brain activity. The body can develop a tolerance to the drug very quickly, and when a user stops, there is a significant rebound effect: those that develop a Xanax addiction are at risk of serious seizures and other harmful consequences upon withdrawal from the drug.
- Oxycodone – Most commonly sold as Oxycontin, Oxycodone is an opiate painkiller that is often prescribed to patients after a serious injury or surgery. While it is perhaps the painkiller most frequently prescribed by doctors (at least six million times a year), the drug itself is a direct relative of the illegal substance heroin. Oxycontin can be crushed, smoked, or snorted as well as taken in pill form. As with any opiate addiction, it does not take long for a user to get addicted to Oxycodone. As a result, suggested use of the Schedule II drug is restricted to a very short period of time.
- Demerol – Like Oxycodone, Demerol is a highly addictive opioid that inhibits pain receptors in the brain. Tolerance to this drug is developed very quickly among patients, and many struggle to stop Demerol use even after their prescription has run out. Unfortunately, the danger of a Demerol addiction is more than just its immediate side effects: the withdrawal symptoms associated with this pain reliever are both painful and intense. Addicted users experience withdrawal symptoms such as fevers, chills, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and severe depression. Therefore, those battling a Demerol addiction should be monitored 24/7 in a professional drug treatment facility.
- Diazepam – Most commonly found under the brand name Valium, this benzodiazepine is often abused for its sedative effects. Similarly to Xanax, Diazepam drugs such as Valium are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Extended use, however, frequently leads to tolerance and physical dependence. The effects of diazepam are euphoric, and have been compared to feelings of drunkenness and relaxation. Because the effects are so pleasurable, though, the drug itself can be extremely habit-forming. Many youth, unaware of the negative side effects (confusion, blackouts, coma, and overdose), take diazepam in combination with other drugs or alcohol, thus putting themselves more at risk.
From opiates to stimulants, the long-term use of prescription drugs can and will likely lead to physical dependence. This is a result of the way our bodies react to drugs. When a user prolongs prescription drug use, his or her body adapts to the presence of the substance within the system. He or she may then build up a tolerance to the drug, increase dosages of the drug to achieve its warranted effects, and eventually become addicted as a result.
If your teen or someone you love is currently using prescription drugs, we advise you to be wary. If you suspect the misuse of pills has already begun within your household, take action immediately. Prescription drugs, while safe when used as directed, pose extreme risk of addiction for teens and young adults.
Addiction is a learned disease, and stems from the repetitive nature of drug abuse. Fortunately, it is a highly treatable disease, and dependence upon any of these medications can be conquered. Long-term drug treatment can help your loved one find the hope and support he needs to remain drug-free. Get on the road to recovery today, and call Turnbridge at 877-581-1793.