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Generation RX

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Most parents know to be concerned about cigarettes and alcohol. But these days, kids have found another way to get high -- painkillers and other prescription drugs are being abused at record levels.

teen holding prescription drugs

Dr. Alanna Levine: Second only to marijuana, prescription medications are the most common drugs teenagers use to get high. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 teenagers reports having used a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them at least once in their lifetime. A review of the National Poison Center data from 1995-2008, published in the August issue of Pediatrics, found a significant increase in calls regarding the abuse of medications used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), specifically amphetamines (Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (Ritalin).

ADHD affects roughly 8-12% of children worldwide, and recently the numbers have been rising. The more adolescents treated for ADHD, the greater the access teens have to ADHD medications, and the greater the potential for abuse. This does not just apply to those adolescents who obtain pills illegally from their friends or otherwise; studies have found that many adolescents who are prescribed the medications by a doctor may ultimately end up abusing them.

The main reason teens abuse ADHD medication is because it improves their ability to focus and stay awake and alert while studying. Some also use it to suppress their appetite, a side effect of these medications. This can contribute to other psychological disorders like anorexia.

It is important to note that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are very safe and effective when used properly. They do, however, require medical evaluation prior to starting them, and frequent monitoring. This is why they fall into the category of controlled substances, and pharmacists can only dispense a 30-day supply at a time.

What should parents know?
1. Be aware of the increasing incidence of abuse.
2. Talk to your teens about the risk of sharing medications.
3. Be aware of how many pills are in the bottle, and monitor frequently.
4. Be wary of physicians who simply refill prescriptions without a proper evaluation.
5. Know the number for Poison Control (in the U.S., (800) 222-1222) in case of an emergency.


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60 comments so far | Post a comment now
Parent's fault August 28, 2009, 8:51 AM

As a former teacher all I can say is the parents did it to their kids. Instead of parenting, a few years back everyone decided their child had some form of ADHD and put them on medicine. Ridiculous, the kids were being kids and the parents didn’t want to parent and now we’ve got a bunch of kids addicted to prescription drugs. I started seeing the same thing with parents insisiting their kids had some type of Autism and asking me (a teacher, not a dr.) if I knew what drugs they could request. I feel bad for this generation.

Anonymous August 28, 2009, 9:03 AM

I agree with Parent’s fault to a degree but I want to add that my son’s 1st grade teacher called me the second day of school and in a roundabout way told me that she thought my son had ADHD. I took him to the doctor and did the follow up paperwork that his teacher and I had to fill out and the doctor wanted to put him on medicine. My husband and I thought that he was just maybe socially inmature and chose not to medicate him. His years in elem. school were sometimes rough but I’m glad we didn’t put him on anything. He is now in High School and there is nothing wrong with him. He has caught up socially with his peers. My point being is sometimes it’s the teacher who push parents to get thier kids medicated.

Dani August 28, 2009, 12:53 PM

This is DEFINITELY a preventable epidemic. Its caused by lazy parenting.
Its not a new trend either, I am 35 and when I was 11 years old I began getting into EVERYTHING I could get my hands on. My friends parents all had the same reaction when we were caught taking their pills “don’t do it again!” like THAT would stop us! But they thought since it was “only a few” and it was prescribed by a Dr. that there was no real danger…Parents today would rather medicate their kids then get involved with them, entertain them, challenge them, bond with them etc. Their excuse is that they are tired, they worked all day etd! THATS NO EXCUSE! Alot of parents (some of whom are my friends fom back in the day who now have teens of their own) will say crap like “Well we did it back in the day so I dont want to be a hypocrite! besides we all turned out fine”
I dont think its hypocrisy I think its stupidity! Our parents were stupid but WE have a chance to be different cuz we are informed…now all we need to do is to CARE! Stop being lazy and step up!
P.S. Yea I turned out fine but I did heavy drugs & alcohol for years and feel like I ruined my future because of it, now I wish I had finished college and went to law school, learned the value of a dollar and how to manage money etc…These things or lack of them is why I struggle to hold onto my home presently and why I have no savings etc…my point is that EVERYTHING is related and what we lack when we are younger will affect us when we are older!

Olov August 28, 2009, 2:04 PM

The wise words are coming from the ordinary people making comments and the not at all wise evaluation from the “professional”. I mean it is quite easy to verify for oneself that this statement by Dr. Levine needs some correction: “It is important to note that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are very safe and effective when used properly.” They are toxic narcotic substances in the same category as cocain and have a very similar effect. They have a brain disabling function - ever wondered about the almost instant effect. And as ADHD is something you DO not something you HAVE they do not have any “medical effect” on anything - just ask for a test for the alleged biochemical imbalance in the brain, and you will find out there is no such test. The “condition” is invented (not discovered) and just gives a reason to push drugs on children

sharon December 21, 2009, 12:41 PM

I can relate to Dani. I am 52. When I was 11, my folks divorced after 12 years of pretty horrible stuff. I had problems focusing, staying still, social skills etc. I was put into counseling. It was determined that I was ” hyper active.” By the time I was 13, I had been prescribed Ritalin. Valium,( to offset my inability to sleep) and finaly Qualudes (don’t ask me). I was a mess and an addict for many years. Work with your children. I don’t care how tired you are,it’s worth it.

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