It used to be that parents and teachers worried about young people using alcohol and street drugs like marijuana and ecstasy, but the new drug of choice for many youth can be found much closer to home.

Found in their own medicine cabinets, through friends, and at local drug stores and online pharmacies, the prescription drugs that are being abused include:

  • Painkillers
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants

Over-the-counter remedies, including cough syrup and cold medicine, are also being used recreationally by an increasing number of young people. Young people may think of prescription drugs as a harmless way for them to relieve anxiety or get high.

There Are No Safe Drugs

Many young people do not think of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the same way they think of street drugs. Often, they see their parents or other adults using these drugs at the advice of their doctors. And so they may think of these drugs as a harmless way for them to relieve anxiety or get high.

Young people often do not realize that prescription and over-the-counter drugs have many of the same effects as street drugs, including impairment of their motor skills and judgment. In large doses, and especially when mixed with alcohol, both depressants and stimulants can be fatal. And these drugs, as well as diet pills, can be highly addictive.

How to Help

The warning signs that a young person is using or abusing prescription or over-the-counter drugs are often similar to those present when they are drinking or using street drugs. They may show sudden irritability or moodiness, and there may be a decline in their appearance, grades, or interest in friends and school.

The first step in helping young people avoid the dangers of these drugs is to get them talking about their use. Often educating them about the negative impact such substances can have on their health and future can help them to understand why they should stop using these drugs and get treatment if they need it.

If you have specific questions, the experienced team of addiction clinicians and clinical coordinators at ARMS is always available to offer information and guidance.