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Heroin Use Among Teens May Begin with Abuse of Painkillers

 

For many years, addiction to both legal and illegal drugs has been a cause of concern for parents of teenagers. Among young people who abuse heroin, a certain percentage can directly link their substance abuse problem back to early use of prescription painkillers to get high. Fortunately, treatment is available for teens who find themselves battling this type of problem.

Sobering Statistics

In a 2014 study conducted by the University of Michigan, approximately 5% of 12th graders used Vicodin, an opioid analgesic, for recreational purposes. Among other frequently abused prescription medications among teens are Percocet, Sentinel, Lortab, Demerol and hydromorphone. Most can be purchased in tablet form and produce a mild to intense euphoria, depending on the dosage and number of pills taken. Production and sales of this drug have significantly increased over the past 10 years, and illicit use of such substances among teenagers is a serious concern.

Why Young People are Turning to Prescription Drugs

A National Institutes of Health survey indicates that approximately 50 percent of teenagers believe that it is safer to take prescription medication than illicit street drugs, even though in many cases, the use of such medication to get high inevitably leads to the use of illegal substances. Many teenagers clearly do not realize the risk they are taking when they engage in such behavior, not only from the side effects of abusing the painkillers themselves, but also the risk of becoming addicted to hard-core drugs, such as heroin.

Monitoring the Future

The University of Michigan conducted a study in 2014 called “Monitoring the Future.” This study examined trends in the prevalence of opioid painkiller abuse in students in 8th through 12th grade. When the study commenced, it was discovered that one percent of 12th graders, or one student out of 100, admitted to using heroin after regularly consuming narcotic painkillers for non-legitimate reasons.

The Role of Parents

According to the National Institute of Health, even though most schools have drug awareness programs, drug testing is generally not administered in public schools and many youngsters simply fall through the cracks with regard to this issue. Therefore, parents must take a proactive approach concerning their children’s risk of developing a drug problem.

Personality changes, weight loss, socializing with a new group of teenagers, slipping grades or suddenly breaking curfews when the latter was not formerly an issue are all signs that an addiction may be underway. Prevention is always the best course of action. For this reason, it is also wise for parents to monitor their children carefully if pain killers are prescribed by a doctor for legitimate reasons. Asking for higher doses of the medication, wanting to continue using it after the source of the pain is healed or taking extra pills without telling his or her parents are all signs that the young person may be developing a problem.

Any parent with concerns about their own children or other teens regarding addiction should seek a quality treatment program for the young person as soon as possible to ensure the best chance of recovery.

Sources:

http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends

http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-pain-medications-risks-heroin-use

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