The Rise of Prescription Pill Abuse

The Basics Behind Non-Medical Use of Pills and Remedies

According to the National Institute survey, prescription drug use is an “area of concern” for teens, and 15.4 percent of high school seniors report using prescription and over the counter drugs for non-medical purposes. In other words, a teen is just as likely to get drugs from the family medicine cabinet than a dealer on the street.

“I started abusing pills when I was just 13,” reports one addict, who is currently living in a sober treatment facility after seeking help for a ten year addiction. “I found so many ways to get high around the house. Diet pills, cough syrup, Oxycontin, Xanax. It was easy to steal the pills and get high.”

Commonly Abused Medications

  • Opiods. Prescribed as painkillers, these include medications with codeine, oxycodone or morphine, such OxyContin, Perocet, Percodan and Vicodan. Abusing these pills brings on a feeling of euphoric pleasure.
  • Sedatives and Tranquillizers. Often prescribed for sleeplessness or anxiety attacks, abusing drugs such as Xanax, Valium, and Nembutal produces a general feeling of peace and well-being.
  • Stimulants. Includes diet pills and ADD/ADHD medications, including Ritalin and Adderall. A user will experience a fast, “speedy” feeling, as well as increased heart rate, from taking these pills.
  • OTC, or Over the Counter medications. Popular choices include medications, such as cough syrup, which contain dextromethorphan, or DXM. Other choices include large doses of diet pills, sleep aids, or motion sickness medication.

Pill Accessibility

Often, teens abuse prescription and OTC medication because they’re easier to buy than street drugs, as well as more socially acceptable. Sources include:

  • Medicine cabinets of family and friends. One quick trip to Grandma’s bathroom can turn up all kinds of items for a resourceful user.
  • The Internet. Type in “Buy Oxycontin” on a Google search and 1.3 million sites will surface, as well ways to isolate DXM in cough syrup.
  • Doctor shopping. Users either lie to doctors to obtain more or different drugs, or visit multiple doctors to insure a steady supply.


While teens face pressure from the outside world, parents can make home a safe and inviting environment. Other tips for preventing prescription pill abuse include:

  • Remove old medication from cabinets. If there is no longer a medical need, there is no need for the pills.
  • Keep medications locked up, and monitor the levels of pills/liquids in the bottles.
  • Talk to your kids. Opening lines of communication, even about uncomfortable subjects, will allow the best opportunity to defuse potentially dangerous situations.

If the possibility of prescription pill abuse is already there, seek medical help immediately. The abuse of pills, especially the mixing of different pills or with alcohol, could have deadly consequences.