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Prescriptions medications have become the new gateway drug for children and teens. An annual survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 2.1 million people ages 12 or older who tried an illicit drug for the first time in 2007 chose prescription pain relievers, 57,000 more than the number who tried marijuana. (Calefati, 2008)

The most commonly abused classes of drugs are…

  • Opioids
  • ADHD drugs & stimulants
  • Sedatives like Xanax


Abuse of prescription amphetamines has traditionally been the largest type of drug abuse after marijuana, though rates have fallen somewhat in recent years. (Johnston et al., 2017) Calls to Poison Control Centers about teen abuse of ADHD drugs soared 76% over an 8-year period from 1998 to 2005, and there were at least 4 recorded deaths from these drugs during that time. This paralleled an 86% increase in prescriptions for ADHD medication. (tanner, 2009)

“Prescription opiates are seen as acceptable because they are doctor prescribed. But abusing them to get high frequently leads users to try heroin,” says Allison Stombaugh, an intelligence analyst for the NDIC. (Calefati, 2008)

The availability of prescription drugs is often a problem, so teens will typically use whatever they can get a hold of.

Only 15% of teens in 2016 said tranquilizers would be fairly or very easy to get if they wanted some, down from 72% in 1975. (Johnston et al., 2017)

One of the things fueling prescription drug abuse is that teens assume they are safe to experiment with since they come from a doctor. You should dispel them of this delusion. Talk to them about the fact that there are more than 100,000 people killed each year from the side effects of prescription drugs, even when taken for medical reasons. Things become especially dangerous if certain medications are mixed together, which is something teens often do when they use these substances to achieve an altered state.

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