Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Teens Abusing Painkillers and Stimulant Medications in Higher Numbers

The Partnership at released the results of the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) that revealed that prescription painkiller abuse is a huge problem among teens. In fact, 25 percent of teens say they have misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime. That marks a whopping 35-percent increase in the past five years.

What has contributed to this increase? Experts say it may be due in part to an increasingly lax attitude among parents, such as:

  • Occasionally giving kids a prescription drug that is not prescribed to them (one in five say they have done this)
  • Not communicating the dangers and risks that come with abusing prescription painkillers
  • Keeping extra painkillers around the house from unwanted or unused personal prescriptions
  • Not monitoring or safeguarding their current and ongoing painkiller prescriptions

What the PATS Study Found

According to the reports, the PATS study found the following to be true among teens today:

  • About 5 million teens say they have abused a prescription drug at least once in their lives.
  • Of these teens, 20 percent say they abused a prescription medication for the first time before they were 14.
  • About 23 percent of responding teens say their parents are less concerned about them using a prescription drug than using a street drug.
  • About 27 percent said that prescription drug abuse is not as dangerous as abuse of street drugs.
  • Approximately 33 percent of teens said they felt it was “okay to use prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them to deal with an injury, illness, or physical pain.”

Parents and Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Steve Pasierb is the President and CEO of The Partnership at He said, “These data make it very clear: the problem is real, the threat immediate, and the situation is not poised to get better. Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and want to protect their kids. But the truth is that when misused and abused, medicines—especially stimulants and opioids—can be every bit as dangerous and harmful as those illicit street drugs.

“Medicine abuse is one of the most significant and preventable adolescent health problems facing our families today. What’s worse is that kids who begin using at an early age are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who might start using after the teenage years. As parents and caring adults, we need to take definitive action to address the risks that intentional medicine abuse poses to the lives and the long-term health of our teens.”

No One More Powerful Than a Parent in a Teenager’s Life

How can you help your teen display a more informed attitude and behaviors when it comes to prescription drug abuse? You can:

  • Be a good example. Don’t take prescription medications unless prescribed them.
  • Don’t give your child a prescription pain med unless it is prescribed to him.
  • Keep your medications under lock and key.
  • Safely dispose of unused and unwanted medications.
  • Do some research and learn more about the threat of prescription drug overdose.
  • Educate your teen by talking to him about what can happen when he takes these medications without a doctor’s supervision.

If your son is abusing prescription drugs, don’t wait to intervene. If he takes one pill too many, the wrong pill, the wrong combination of pills, the wrong combination of pills and other substances, or makes a bad choice while under the influence, it may be too late. Contact us at Muir Wood now to learn more about how we can help you successfully intervene on behalf of your son’s future.