Parent Guide: Teens & Prescription Drugs

Parent Guide

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Risk Factors

Who’s Likely to Abuse Drugs

  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol
  • Younger age, specifically the teens or early 20’s
  • Certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • Exposure to peer pressure or a social environment where there’s drug use
  • Easier access to prescription drugs, such as working in a health care setting
  • Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs

The Consequences

The Dangers of Drug Use

  • Impaired driving
  • Unsafe sexual activity
  • Concentration problems
  • Serious health problems or even death

The Drug


  • Opioids like oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) used to treat pain

Signs & Symptoms

Abuse of Opioids

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased breathing rate
  • Confusion, Poor Coordination
  • Sweating

The Drugs

Sedatives & Anti-Anxiety Medication

  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) and hypnotics like zolpidem (Ambien) used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders

Signs & Symptoms

Abuse of Sedatives & Anti-Anxiety

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion, Dizziness
  • Unsteady walking
  • Poor judgment
  • Involuntary and rapid eye movement

The Drugs


  • Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), used to treat ADHD and certain sleep disorders

Signs & Symptoms

Abuse of Stimulants

  • Weight loss
  • Agitation, Irritability
  • Insomnia, Restlessness
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Impulsive behavior

Other Behavior to Look For

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up or sedated

Other Behavior to Look For

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor


Where to Get Help

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Substance Abuse Treatment Services Locator has a database of more than 11,000 addiction treatment facilities and programs.
  • Or call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)


Communication is Key

  • Ask your teen’s views
  • Discuss reasons not to do drugs, such as sports, driving, health & appearance
  • Consider media messages that glamorize drug use
  • Discuss ways to resist peer pressure
  • Be ready to discuss your own drug use, past or present

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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