Get Facts: Overview

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Important Information About Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

As a parent, educator, caregiver, or a concerned teen, you can be a positive influence. Start today by having conversations about prescription drug abuse and misuse with someone you care about.

The misuse and abuse of prescription medication among teens is a serious health problem.

Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, many teens have misused or abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.

Misusing prescription medications is when you take them in a different way than prescribed or directed by a healthcare professional. This can include:

  • taking the medication more frequently than prescribed by the doctor
  • taking more medication each time
  • taking for a different reason than prescribed
  • taking a medication prescribed to someone else

Abusing prescription medication happens when you take a medication to obtain specific experiences or feelings, such as getting high.

Taking prescription drugs to get high can be just as dangerous and addictive as using illegal "street" drugs.

Many people mistakenly believe that it's safer to take prescription medication to get high than illegal or street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

In reality, even one improper use of a prescription drug can potentially be dangerous. Abuse of prescription drugs can impact judgment and decision making — leading to risky behaviors — and can result in addiction, serious health issues, and in some cases, death.

Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can be deadly.

Many teens may not realize that mixing certain prescription medications with alcohol poses a real danger. Taken in combination, prescription medications and alcohol can cause nausea and vomiting, internal bleeding and breathing difficulties. In larger quantities, the combination can be deadly.