Prescription Drug Abuse in Adolescents

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 52 million Americans use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at least once in their life. Every day, approximately 44 Americans die from prescription painkiller overdoses. Thus, it is an alarming scenario with prescription painkillers causing more than 16,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits annually. No wonder, the prescription drug abuse helpline numbers never stop ringing.

It is more terrifying when it comes to adolescents. Being young with impressionable minds, they are more susceptible to fall prey to prescription drug abuse. Seeking prescription drug addiction treatment help remains the only solution in such a situation.

According to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, one out of every five teens in the U.S. abuse prescription drugs to get high. Almost half of them who have abused prescription painkillers also report abusing two or more drugs, including marijuana. They are also likely to abuse alcohol. Children reportedly do not feel any guilt pangs, because the drugs aren’t illegal and are also not shamed because they are not abusing illicit drugs, just prescription medicines. Adolescents abusing prescription drugs without any sign of inhibition is a dangerous trend.

As per a study titled “Psychotropic Medication Use among Adolescents: United States, 2005-2010,” about 6.3 percent U.S. adolescents reported any type of psychotropic medication use in the past month, during the period 2005-2010. The study, conducted by Bruce S. Jonas, Sc.M., Ph.D., Qiuping Gu, M.D., Ph.D. and Juan R. Albertorio-Diaz, M.A., has summed the findings as below:

  • The highest abuse seen is of antidepressants (3.2 percent) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) drugs (3.2 percent). They are followed by antipsychotics (1 percent); anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics (0.5 percent); and antimanics (0.2 percent).
  • Males (4.2 percent) are more likely to use ADHD drugs as compared to females (2.2 percent), and females (4.5%) are more likely than males (2 percent) to use antidepressants.
  • The use of psychotropic drug was higher among non-Hispanic white (8.2 percent) adolescents than non-Hispanic black (3.1 percent) and Mexican-American (2.9 percent) adolescents.
  • Approximately half of the U.S. adolescents using psychotropic drugs in the past month had seen a mental health professional in the past year (53.3 percent).

Adolescents and prescription drugs

According to a 2008 report of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 64 percent of the youth aged 12 to 17 who have abused pain relievers said they got the medicines from friends or relatives, often without the other person’s knowledge. Very few of them said that they procured prescription medicines from the internet.

However, they engaged in online chat and gathered information about drugs and others’ experiences. Another potential place to obtain prescription drugs is their respective schools. Rampant exchange of medicines and trade flourish in the corridors.

Ways to check abuse

The study feels that prescription drug abuse in adolescents should be taken seriously like any other abuse. Parents and caregivers have a significant role to play in curbing this menace. Since a school is a fertile spot for procuring prescription drugs, authorities have a pivotal role in addressing it. Regular seminars and inviting guest speakers to talk on the dangers of this can help in reducing this threat.

Government agencies should also exert their influence and work towards eradicating abuse of prescription drugs. Introducing stringent laws, implementing reforms and educating the people at large will go a long way.

Even physicians should play their part. Keeping detailed records of patients, educating parents about any drugs prescribed to their children and enquiring about their patients’ past abuses will also help in preventing this malady.

Drug Abuse and the Gender Gap

Usage rates for prescription drugs continue to rise with nearly 3 in 5 Americans taking prescription drugs including antidepressants and opioids.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that prescription drug usage among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier and it was rising at a faster rate than ever before. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent.

Effects of Gender on Addiction

It is no surprise then that the non-medical use of prescription drugs including painkillers, tranquilizers, and sedatives continue to be a growing problem in the United States. Statistics show men abuse prescription drugs at a higher rate than women, however, the gap between the genders is narrowing. Females age 12 to 17 are less likely to take abuse prescription drug and abuse and distribution is much higher in males of the same age range, according to a recent government study on Gender Medicine. The same report shows that young adult females show a higher percentage rate of addiction to cocaine and prescription drugs even though males in that age group abuse those drugs more frequently and take them in larger amounts.

Disturbingly, more recent statistics show that overdose deaths among young women are increasing, especially those who become addicted to opioids. The CDC Vital Signs reported that deaths from opioid overdose among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. By comparison, young men of the same age group suffered fatal opioid overdoses by approximately 265 percent in that same time frame. The CDC has estimated that as many as 18 women in the United States die every day from an opioid drug overdose, most of which were obtained by prescription.

To continue the disturbing downtrend of drug abuse according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to receive adequate treatment for substance abuse than men. Studies show that women are less likely than men to be placed in a specialized but are often treated by primary care providers or through mental health programs instead. Women also face more obstacles that are an impediment to their treatment, such as lower incomes, the possibility of pregnancy, and the need for childcare. In addition, women show more of a tendency to hide their substance abuse for a variety of reason including fear of social stigma, loss of child custody, or repercussions from a partner or spouse.

In the past, studies in drug addiction was from a male perspective for both males and females and drug abuse prevention programs and rehab facilities were designed with an emphasis on the needs of males. In comparison, outreach campaigns, preventive education, and drug rehab today is tailored to address the needs of both men and women as the scientific and medical community become more informed about how and why these addiction patterns occur in both men and women.

With gender roles playing a role in addiction, Gender-specific treatment programs provide a respite from the social stressors of everyday life. Patients can focus on their recovery without the distraction of the opposite sex. Studies show that both men and women feel more comfortable communicating about issues like sexuality, social prejudice, and domestic abuse with members of their own gender.

Both men and women suffering from opiod addiction, both can benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation programs that focus on the full range of care required to be free from addiction. These programs take a patient from detox to residential treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, and transitional living. Effective treatment therapies include:

  • Fitness training
  • Experimental and holistic modalities
  • Follow up programs
  • Family or marriage counseling
  • Nutritional counceling

Having the support of a highly trained, multidisciplinary staff can help individuals of both genders recover from the disease of addiction and regain hope for the future.

According to a SAMHSA report in 2014, men are more likely than women to use all types of illegal drugs that result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths. These drugs include marijuana (according to federal law) and the misuse of prescription drugs. Men in most age groups have a higher rate of use and dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women. However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted but are more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Women are also more susceptible to craving and relapse which are key phases of the addiction cycle.

Going even further in their research SAMHSA found that women of color may face other unique issues with regard to drug use and treatment needs. For example, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic groups to be victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime-issues that are risk factors for substance use and should be addressed during treatment.

In addition to drug abuse be affected by personality traits, research has shown that in most instances women use drugs differently, respond to drugs differently, and often have unique obstacles that prevent them from receiving effective treatment. Some of these obstacles being as simple as not being able to find child care or being prescribed treatment that has not been adequately tested on women.

Researchers continue to study to learn more about the differing factors that attribute to drug addiction in males and females. As they are able to effectively identify these factors, the medical community more able to develop programs to increase an individual’s chance of breaking free from addictive lifestyles.

They are learning that the physical and mental differences of both men and women contribute how they are introduced abuse an individual’s ability to be successful in a treatment program

In a July 2016 article CNN reported that:

“according to a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, worldwide, drug use has remained steady over the past four years,. However, researchers found that heroin use in the United States is up 145% since 2007.”

One in 20 adults — roughly a quarter of a billion people between ages 15 and 64 — used at least one illegal or improperly used drug in 2014, according to the World Drug Report 2016. Though the numbers have not grown in proportion to the global population, new trends have developed, including increased sales in anonymous online marketplaces.

The U.N. researchers also reported gender differences in drug use. Men are three times more likely than women to use cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines, while women are more likely to take opioids and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes.

How To Choose A Drug Rehab Center

Getting the addict to agree to treatment is a big first step towards recovery, but the very first question that comes up is what type of drug rehab center is most appropriate? Most addiction experts agree that the most successful programs involve getting the addict away from familiar surroundings which have been nurturing the addiction.

Removing the addict from the using environment is crucial since being close to home makes it far too easy to slip back into old habits. Whether the drug treatment center is one hour away from home or a four-hour plane trip, the ideal environment for a recovering addict is in a residential treatment facility or drug rehab center.

Although a residential drug rehab center is ideal, many addicts and/or their families cannot afford the substantial cost involved. Too, many addicts seeking recovery have work or family commitments which make attending a residential facility unsuitable. The case of Charlie Sheen who sought treatment in the middle of filming his hit show “Two and a Half Men” well illustrates the dilemma of many addicts and their families. Out-patient treatment is the only possible treatment for many.

Among drug rehab centers, whether in-patient or out-patient programs, those making the selection will have a wide range of choice. One choice to make is between a tailored and a non-tailored treatment program. Tailored programs cater to groups of people from a similar demographic, work, lifestyle or socioeconomic background. Most today are familiar with celebrity rehab, one type of tailored program, due to the TV program of Dr. Drew Lipinsky and his staff.

Other types of tailored programs from drug rehab centers might be geared toward those whose professions are highly susceptible to excessive drug or alcohol use. Professional athletes, for instance, have high rates of perscription drug abuse, while musicians tend to illegal drugs. Indeed, creative people of all kinds seem to be more inclined to addiction. Today, too, the elderly are statistically more likely to abuse alcohol or perscription drugs. Any of these might benefit from a tailored program. Teenagers also seem to benefit more from treatment programs while they are among their peers.

For most, though, a non-tailored program will be the choice of drug rehab center. Here, the addict will encounter others from every walk of life and socio-economic station. For many addicts, realizing that anyone can suffer from the chronic disease of addiction is a crucial first step in recovery. Once addicts get past the self-blame, they can connect to other sufferers in the drug rehab center and start helping each other towards a lasting recovery.

Once the treatment at a residential drug rehab center is complete, usually within six weeks, then the careful preparation for returning home, to the formerly using environment, can begin. Most frequently, at this time another drug treatment center or an ancillary facility provides out-patient programs to the now-recovering addict. The recovery at this point is still new and fragile. The addict needs the support not only of friends and family but also of individual and group counseling from the drug rehab center.