Teen Substance Abuse: Saying Dont Take that Does Not Cut It
Oct 8, 2013
By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
Teenagers, like all young people, are curious about new experiences, which will often lead to trying the new experience. Whether it is seeing how fast a car will go, how well an energy drink works, what smoking cigarette feels like or how the high from marijuana is, a teenager is always faced with the decision; do they try it or not? It is unfortunate but more and more often teenagers are looking for substances in the medication cabinet to experiment with. The amount of young adults experimenting with both over the counter medications and prescription drugs is increasing. Statistics have shown anywhere from 10% to 17% of teens have tried non-prescription or prescription medication.
Improved technology has exposed teenagers to an overload of information. A simple web search can find almost any information, plus with YouTube, Facebook, blogs and chat lines your children can and will find almost anything they are looking for. While abuse of medication is usually in an attempt to create a high, sometimes they are abused to cope with emotional issues or even in an attempt to lose weight. When you add peer pressure, the curiosity they have in substance abuse can be too much. The problem with the internet, is while there is a tonne of information available, it is not always correct or practical information. Often it is downright dangerous.
Over-the-counter medications are medications which do not require a doctors prescription. They can be found in pharmacies, as well as grocery stores or even convenience stores and include treatments for allergies, pain, temporary sleep issues, cough and cold. While they are generally considered safe, this is limited to only when they are used properly. Misuse or abuse of these products can lead to some very serious health consequences. These products are being used because they can be more accessible, less expensive than street drugs and are incorrectly thought as safe to use. Many teenagers think these products are a better choice because they are legal to purchase however, abusing them is illegal and could lead to criminal charges.
The truth about using over the counter medications to get high is important. Teenagers need to get the message that these medications do not cause a great high and need to take extremely high amounts of them to get any effect at all. You will likely lose consciousness, become excessively drowsy or get extremely ill before noticing any type of high. Misuse can also lead to physical incoordination, nausea, vomiting, improper heart function and dangerously high blood pressure. If enough medication is ingested a persons lungs may lose proper function leading to a lack of oxygen to the brain. Long term abuse can also lead to problems such as depression, damage to the kidneys or liver and memory loss. Mixing multiple medications or mixing medications with alcohol almost always leads to more severe complications.
Over the counter drug abuse can often develop into prescription drug abuse. Most commonly abused medications include benzodiazepines, sedatives, narcotics and stimulants. Benzodiazepines, which are often used for anxiety and sleep issues, are abused for various reasons, but the truth is they will create an easy high and can be extremely dangerous if mixed with alcohol. Narcotic medications, which are widely used for their success in treating pain, can cause significant euphoria. However; when abused narcotics have high rates of dependence and addiction and can lead to severe adverse respiratory or cardiac effects. Abusing narcotics, which includes oxycodone, can easily lead to overdose, especially in first time users. If abused long term, the prescription listed medication listed above, will lead to some type of memory recall issues, depression, agitation or psychosis.
All drugs, when taken improperly, can create tolerance, dependence or addiction. Tolerance occurs when a higher dose of drug is needed to create the same effect, resulting in higher quantities of drug needed and the possibility of over dose. Dependence on a drug occurs when reoccurring use leads to a mental state of needing the drug or the body goes into a withdrawal when the drug is taken away. Withdrawal symptoms of a drug may include excitability, agitation, weakness, clumsiness, discomfort, poor appetite, stomach cramps and nausea.
Pharmacists know and understand the effects substances can have on the body. We are available for young adults and their parents to explain the risk associated with the various types of substance abuse, especially involving that of over the counter and prescription drug abuse.
As a pharmacist I have seen medication abuse ruin lives, ruin families and even claim lives. My message today is to talk to your kids about making the right choice. While we would like to tell our children Dont do that and believe that is sufficient, it is not. One look at the statistics showing medication abuse in teenagers tells us this absolutely does not work. Teenagers need to know the facts, risks and see the potential consequences, so they can make the best decision.
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As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.