Teens and the Difference Between Prescription Drug Use vs. Abuse


The difference between prescription drug use and abuse is important to understand. Learning statistics is helpful when it comes to understanding teen drug use. Learn some suggestions for parents in understanding why teens are attracted to using drugs in the first place and how to notice symptoms of a potential problem in teens.

Prescription Drugs and Teens

Prescription drug use ranks second only to marijuana use by teens. Teens sometimes take prescription medication for illnesses and believe the drugs to not pose much risk or danger since drugs are regulated. When doctors oversee use, teens think the drugs are safe. Studies show drugs are being misused at a higher rate among teens than ever before.

Dangers of Misuse

According to studies and statistics, 2013 numbers show 4.6% of teens from 12 to 17 years of age misused prescription drugs. Older teens age 18 to 25 used at a higher rate of 8.8%. During the same year, the likelihood of age groups misusing drugs was higher than older adults over age 26. Emergency room visits on a daily basis in 2013 alone were highest for pain relievers followed by antidepressants and benzodiazepines.

Attraction of Drugs

Several factors contribute to teen drug use. Misinformation, misconceptions and risk-taking behaviors all increase the likelihood of teen drug misuse or abuse. Other reasons for abuse include:

  • Physical or psychological enjoyment of drugs
  • Peer pressure
  • Ease of availability
  • Perception of safety
  • Perception of non addictive properties
  • Belief it is not illegal to use without prescription

Suggestions and Tips for Parents

Parents and caregivers can help teens with understanding prescription drug use better by doing the following:

  • Make sure teens use all medication properly
  • Learn the use of medication with both risk and benefit
  • Acknowledge escalation of risk when abused
  • Understand responsibility when it comes to safety
  • Learning to ask for help if a problem arises
  • Talking to doctors or parents when a teen thinks side effects are popping up


If a teen is abusing drugs, it is helpful to become educated about what symptoms may arise and be informed. Knowing how to identify prescription drug use is critical to success for the health of a teen. Symptoms may include:

  • Drop in grades
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Continued fatigue
  • General health issues
  • Hidden or secretive behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Other unexplained behavioral or emotional challenges

Knowing and understanding a teen’s behavior can be helpful when watching changes that may indicate prescription drug abuse. Attendance at a therapeutic boarding school or recovery program may help a teen get back on track.


Sustain Recovery helps teens and young people get their lives on track after addiction. Contact us to find out how we can help your teen get back on their feet and live a healthy life in recovery.