Prescription drug abuse with Generation Rx has become prevalent among high school and college students looking for the ultimate study aid and new ways to get high.
The intentional abuse of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to get high is now an entrenched behavior among today’s teen population, according to a national study released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
The Partnership’s annual study of teen drug use and attitudes confirms that Generation Rx has arrived as an alarming number of today’s teenagers are more likely to have abused Rx and OTC medications than a variety of illegal drugs like ecstasy, cocaine, crack and meth.
Nearly one in five teens (19 percent or 4.5 million) report abusing prescription medications to get high; and one in 10 (10 percent or 2.4 million) report abusing cough medicine to get high.
The drugs prescribed to students suffering from ADHD and depression are some of the most abuse medications that linger within this circle of teens, who take these drugs to get high. Some of the most popular drugs included in this category are Aderall, Ritalin, and Oxycotin, as well as stimulants, and anti-depressants such as Xanax and Vicodin.
In the same study conducted by the Partnership, the number of teens reported to have tried prescription drugs exceed those who have used cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth, and is
second to marijuana and inhalants.
Generation Rx users take stimulants to help them focus, and particularly at midterms and finals, where “all-nighters” are one of the most popular trends on campus. When students are asked why they use prescription drugs they say, “it’s because there is so much pressure in high school and college to do well and we just want some kind of remedy.”
In 2006, 2.2 million people ages 12 and older said they started abusing pain relievers within the past year, with young adults 18-25 showing the greatest overall use of any age group, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
And not only does generation Rx underestimate how addictive opiates are, many don’t even know what drug they are taking. For some, keg parties are being replaced by “pharm parties,” where kids bring whatever pharmaceuticals they can find, mix the drugs up in a big bowl and eat them like candy. The results can be tragic.
Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse – Generation Rx
Experts say that signs of opiate abuse in students are similar to those of other drugs:
- A sudden drop of grades
- Loss of interest in studies or favorite activities
- Change of friends
- Unexplained mood swings
- Financial problems
Teens and college students believe a key driver for abusing prescription pain relievers is their widespread availability and easy access.
Generation Rx – According To The Data:
- More than three in five teens say Rx pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets.
- Half of teens say they’re easy to get through other people’s prescriptions.
- More than half of teens say pain relievers are “available everywhere.”
- 43 percent of teens believe pain relievers are cheap.
- 35 percent believe they are safer to use than illegal drugs.
- Nearly one-third of teens (31 percent or 7.3 million) believe there’s “nothing wrong” with using Rx medicines without a prescription.
- Nearly three out of 10 teens (29 percent or 6.8 million) believe prescription pain relievers, even if not prescribed by a doctor, are not addictive.
- More than half of teens (55 percent or 13 million) don’t agree that using cough medicines to get high is risky.
An Attitude Tracking Study surveyed more than7,300 teenagers in grades 7-12. Top findings from this national study show the culture of“pharming” – abusing a host of medicines and chemical products intentionally to get high has established itself among America’s teen population:
- One in 10 (10 percent or 2.4 million) teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.
- Abuse of Rx and OTC medications is on par or higher than the abuse of illegal drugs such as Ecstasy (8 percent), cocaine/crack
(10 percent), methamphetamine (8 percent) and heroin
There is a world of difference between good medicine and bad behavior with Generation Rx. When these medicines are abused and used for anything other than their intended and approved purpose, they can be every bit as dangerous as illegal street drugs.
Some Commonly Abused Medications – Generation Rx
Diazepam, sold under the commercial name Valium, is used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures and to control agitation caused byalcohol withdrawal. Temazepam, brand name Restoril, is prescribed in the short term to help patients fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Alprazolam, commonly known under the brand name Xanax, is part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.
Oxycodone, a painkiller, is the active ingredient in the prescription drug OxyContin. Hydrocodone,another painkiller, is often combined with acetaminophen, as in the prescription drug Vicodin.
The painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone are opiates, which are dangerous when combined with anti-anxiety medicines like diazepam, alprazolam and temazepam. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration Web site, oxycodone is often abused and an acute overdose can cause respiratory arrest and death.
Doxylamine, found in common “nighttime sleep aids,” is an an antihistamine that causes drowsiness as a side effect and is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia. (It is also used, in combination with decongestants, to relieve cough and cold symptoms.)
Ambian is a nightime sleep aid that is often abused and can be addictive.Temazepam is also used as a sleep aid and sold under the name Restoril.
Doxylamine, a sleep aid and antihistamine, is an active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter medications, including NyQuil.
Diazepam is sold under the brand name Valium and Alprazolam is sold under the name Xanax.
Physicians should be extremely careful when prescribing commonly abused drugs to teenagers and college students. Appropriate diagnosis, treatment and therapeutic monitoring of students who are receiving abusable prescription medications is crucial, not only to improve clinical outcomes but also to help prevent the abuse of these medications.
Parents Are Unaware Of Generation Rx Abuse Of Medications
Parents are crucial in helping prevent this behavior, but are largely unaware and feel ill-equipped to respond. Parents must educate themselves and get through to their kids:
- Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs.
- Nine out of 10 parents of teens (92 percent or 22 million) say they have talked to their teen about the dangers of drugs, yetfewer than one third of teens (31 percent or 7.4 million) say they “learn a lot about the risks of drugs” from their parents.
- While three out of five parents report discussing drugs like marijuana with their children, only a third of parents report discussing the risks of using prescription medicines or non-prescription cold or cough medicine to get high.
Generation Rx Is Internet Savvy
Kids today are much more sophisticated than most adults are. – Generation RX
Instead of relying on word of mouth to get details about new ways to get high, teens are now relying on instant messaging, chat rooms and the Internet for their information.
One teen can stumble across something, and within 36 hours, over 100,000 kids can know about it. Teens have this enormous urge to reach out and tell as many people as they can about what they find, and that can happen overnight. It’s a new era.
Today’s parents are the most drug-experienced in history, but they do not understand this new drug abuse behavior among their teens. They are looking for the classic signs of illegal drug abuse and are missing this trend.
Parents need to be aware that the drugs their teens abuse today, (Generation RX) including medicines, are not the drugs from decades past.
Talk to your child about the dangers of drugs, including prescription ones. – Generation RX
In addition, you may want to keep medicines at home locked up. Only through education and parental involvement can this trend be reversed.