While Other Substance Abuse Trends Amongst Teens Fall, Prescription Drug Abuse Skyrockets

Teens drug dealing.

Since the turn of the century, drug abuse and alcoholism have more or less reduced amongst young adult, teen, and adolescent age demographics. This is something to be proud of, as the 1980s and 1990s saw some of the worst substance abuse habits amongst young people.

Unfortunately, such strong reduction in substance abuse trends amongst teen and young adult demographics has allowed parents to rest on their laurels and to become quite unconcerned about substance abuse trends amongst young people. This is a mistake and a serious one at that.

Research Shows Teen Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise

According to recent surveys, only one-third of parents are actually all that concerned about teen and young adult prescription drug abuse. This is a major flaw, particularly because teen and young adult prescription drug abuse is a growing problem across the U.S. today. Just teen and young adult overdose deaths on two opioid painkillers, Vicodin and OxyContin, total a greater number than all teen overdose deaths from heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine combined.

According to Sarah Clark, associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and co-author of the survey and research project:

“Recent estimates are that one in four high school seniors have used a narcotic pain medicine…”
Highshoolers drug dealing inside the class room.

Recent estimates are that one in four high school seniors have used a narcotic pain medicine. However, parents may downplay the risks of narcotic pain medicine because they are prescribed by a doctor. However, people who misuse narcotic pain medicine are often using drugs prescribed to themselves, a friend or a relative. That 'safe' prescription may serve as a readily accessible supply of potentially lethal drugs for children or teens.

Clark went on to say that:

“This is a national problem and a growing problem. The results of this poll are a signal that parents may not be aware of the significant rates of misuse of narcotic pain medicine, which highlights the tremendous challenge of addressing this national problem.

We can see here that parental concern over teen and young adult prescription drug abuse is going in the wrong direction. Indeed, parents need to increase their concern in this arena lest prescription drug abuse amongst young people spirals totally out of control.

Correcting a Growing Problem

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use and prescription drug abuse are the only drug problems amongst younger demographics that are growing. However, these problems are growing rapidly, and that is something to be concerned about.

Starting in 2014, the non-medical use of prescription painkillers was highest amongst people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. No less than twelve percent of this age demographic was getting high from painkillers that year. The problem has only gotten worse since then. Every day, one-hundred and nineteen young people have to go to the ER for a prescription drug overdose. Twenty-two young people are admitted into treatment centers every day, and five die from overdoses every day.

This is absolutely a growing problem that parents need to be concerned about. If parents do not take a more active and impassioned stance on addressing the epidemic, it will only continue to grow until it sweeps over all of the other demographics too.

Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that parents who talk to their kids about drug and alcohol abuse end up raising kids who are four-hundred percent less likely to abuse drugs. But only thirty percent of parents do this. Parents need to start talking to their sons and daughters about prescription drug abuse, and they need to start doing this now. The very lives of their sons and daughters depend on it.


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After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.