Abused Prescription Drugs/Signs of Use/Withdrawal
Proper Disposal of Unused
You’ve talked to your teens and preteens about underage
drinking and illegal drug use. But did you know that many teens are turning
away from street drugs and using prescription drugs to get high? In fact, rates
of new users of prescription drugs have caught up with new users of marijuana.
According to the 2006 Monitoring the Future survey, abuse of OxyContin and
Vicodin over the year prior to the survey have reached a level that raises
Past year abuse of Vicodin
was 3.0 percent among 8th-graders, 7.0 percent among 10th-graders, and 9.7
percent among 12th-graders in 2006.
Abuse of OxyContin among
8th-graders nearly doubled between 2002 and 2006, from 1.3 percent to 2.6
and young adults abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons. They believe
the myth that medications are a ‘safe high’; but misuse of these drugs can lead
to dependence, addiction, long and short-term physical or psychological problems
– even death.
report that it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get prescription drugs.
Nearly half of teens that use them illicitly say they get prescription meds for
free from a relative or friend. They also take them without asking from
parents, grandparents, or friends’ homes. Unscrupulous Internet companies sell
various medications without confirming purchasers’ ages or requiring a valid
prescription. Some of those companies are even selling drugs that do not meet
Federal Drug Administration standards.
most often prescribed to treat pain. Morphine, for example, is often used before
and after surgery to alleviate severe pain, while codeine is often prescribed
for mild pain. In addition to their pain-relieving properties, some of these
drugs can be used to relieve coughs and diarrhea. Commonly used opioids include
oxycodone (OxyContin), propoxyphene (Darvon), hydrocodone (Vicodin),
hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil).
Signs of use
include constricted pupils, nausea and vomiting, and respiratory depression.
Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia,
diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), and
involuntary leg movements. Long-term use of opioids can lead to physical
dependence and addiction. Taking a large single dose of an opioid could cause
severe respiratory depression that can lead to death.
Central nervous system (CNS)
are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Among the CNS depressants
commonly prescribed are barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and
pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep
disorders; Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl
(Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress
reactions, and panic attacks, and benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion)
and estazolam (ProSom) prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders.
Sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, depressants are substances
that can slow normal brain function. They should not be combined with any other
medication or substance that causes CNS depression, including prescription pain
medicines, some OTC cold and allergy medications, and alcohol. Using CNS
depressants with these other substances - particularly alcohol - can slow both
the heart and respiration and may lead to death.
Signs of use
speech, dizziness, and respiratory depression.
Withdrawal symptoms - Because all CNS depressants work by slowing the
brain's activity, when an individual stops taking them, the brain's activity can
rebound and race out of control, potentially leading to seizures and other
are prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy and attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression that has not responded to other
treatments. Commonly prescribed stimulants include
(Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).
Signs of use
delusions, flushed skin and chest pain with heart palpitations should alert you
to possible stimulant abuse
include fatigue, depression, and disturbance of sleep patterns. Repeated use of
some stimulants over a short period can lead to feelings of hostility or
paranoia. Taking high doses of a stimulant may result in dangerously high body
temperature and an irregular heartbeat. There is also the potential for
cardiovascular failure or lethal seizures.
are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. They do
have legitimate medical uses, including treatment for certain kinds of anemia
and for men who don't produce enough testosterone on their own. A different
kind of steroid, called corticosteroids, is sometimes prescribed to reduce
swelling, but these are not anabolic steroids and do not have the same harmful
effects. Some of the most common anabolic steroids prescribed for legitimate
reasons include anadrol, oxandrin, dianabol, winstrol, deca-durabolin, and
When adolescents abuse steroids, their growth is halted prematurely through
premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes. This means that
adolescents risk remaining short for the remainder of their lives if they take
anabolic steroids before the typical adolescent growth spurt. People who abuse
anabolic steroids may experience physical side effects ranging from liver tumors
and cancer, fluid retention, high blood pressure, increases in LDL (bad
cholesterol), and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol), or kidney tumors.
In addition, there are some gender-specific side effects:
For men - shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility,
baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer.
For women - growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or
cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice.
Steroid abusers also risk a number of emotional/psychological side effects,
including paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired
judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.
Signs of Steroid Use include quick weight and muscle gains (when used in a
weight training program), aggressiveness and combativeness, extreme mood swings
- including manic-like symptoms, jaundice, purple or red spots on the body,
swelling of feet and lower legs, trembling, unexplained darkening of the skin,
persistent unpleasant breath odor and severe acne breakouts and oily skin.
may include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia,
reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings. The most dangerous of the withdrawal
symptoms is depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts. If left
untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal
have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the
First and foremost,
continue talking with your teen – about drug abuse as well as all aspects of
life. Open lines of communication are your first defense against any form of
substance use/abuse. Other tips for warding off prescription drug abuse
Educate yourself and your teen about the risks. Prescription drugs can be just
as dangerous and as addictive as “street drugs,” and can be lethal. Talk to your
teen about the dangers of these drugs.
Keep track of quantities. Take note of how many pills are in a bottle or pill
packet and ask other households your teen visits to do the same, such as
grandparents or other friends. Don’t forget about refills. If you find you have
to refill medication for a chronic condition more often than recommended, there
could be a real problem - as someone may be stealing your medication.
Talk to friends, relatives and school administration. Make sure your friends and
relatives know about the risks, too, and encourage them to regularly monitor
their own medicine cabinets. If you don’t know the parents of your teen’s circle
of friends, then make an effort to get to know them, and get on the same page
about rules and expectations. Follow up with your teen’s school administration
to find out what they are doing to address issues of Rx (prescription) and OTC
(over the counter) drug abuse on campus.
Follow directions carefully. Make sure you and your teen use Rx drugs only as
prescribed by a medical doctor and take only the recommended dosages as
indicated for both Rx and OTC drugs. If you are directed to finish the
prescription, then do so as advised. If you have any questions about how to take
a prescription drug, call your family physician or pharmacist.
Discard old or unused medications. Review the
federal guidelines for
details on how to safely dispose of prescription drugs.
Monitor your teen’s time online. Check browser histories and set a time limit
for how long your teen can be online.
Be observant. If you find your teen is quickly going through cough syrup, or
you find empty bottles and pill packages among your child’s personal effects,
talk with your teen, listen carefully, and determine if there is a problem. If
there is a problem, call your family physician immediately.
Find other ways to relieve stress and have fun. Many teens point to personal
and family stress, as well as boredom, as reasons they abuse Rx and OTC drugs.
Help your teen find other ways to relieve pressures, through positive activities
that interest your teen, positive friendships, or by simply listening and
offering guidance. Also, help your teen find constructive ways to pass time and
set a good example yourself.
Take unused, unneeded, or
expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw the
containers in the trash. Remove your name and other info from them first.
drugs with something like used coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in
non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags.
prescription drugs down the toilet
if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing
so; otherwise the chemicals can taint the water supply. Talk to your pharmacist
if you have any questions.
Ask your pharmacist or
doctor if there is a pharmaceutical take-back program where you may bring unused
drugs for proper disposal.
this article was drawn from
Office of National Drug Control Policy
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Parents: The Anti Drug