Understanding “Generation Rx”

What causes today’s teens to abuse prescription drugs to get high? Among the factors are a series of misconceptions, lack of information, and a carefree attitude toward the risks involved in using prescription medicines improperly.

Why do kids abuse prescription drugs?

  • They are seeking psychological or physical pleasure.
  • They want to fit in with groups of friends and are in search of acceptance and bonding.
  • They do not realize the risks of taking medicines that have not been prescribed specifically for them or the danger of not following a prescription’s directions.
  • It is easier to get prescription drugs than illegal drugs.

Teens may believe the following misconceptions such as:

  • Prescription medicines are much safer to use than illegal drugs.
  • Prescription pain relievers cannot be addictive.
  • There is nothing wrong with using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

Recognize the Signs of Precsription Drug Abuse

The best way to prevent prescription drug abuse is to first educate yourself. That way, you can accurately and adequately present the facts when you talk with your teen.

Be sure you can recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse: 

  • Fatigue, red or glazed eyes, and repeated health complaints
  • Sudden mood changes, including irritability, negative attitude, personality changes, and general lack of interest in hobbies/activities
  • Secretiveness and withdrawing from family Decreased or obsessive interest in school work
  • Missing prescription medicines from your medicine cabinet
  • Additional filled prescriptions on your pharmacy record that you did not order

If you recognize any of these signs, talk with your teen and get help. You can speak with your child's physician, or find out where to get help from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County

Information adapted from SAMHSA's Medicine Abuse Project

parent examplePractical advice for talking about prescription drug abuse

As a parent, teach your teen to:

  • Respect the power of medicine and use it properly.
  • Recognize that all medicines, including prescription medications, have risks along with benefits. The risks tend to increase dramatically when medicines are abused.
  • Take responsibility for learning how to take prescription medicines safely and appropriately, and seek help at the first sign of a problem for their own or a friend’s abuse.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Speak to your teen about prescription medicines — do not presume that illegal drugs are the only threat, and remind them that taking someone else’s prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal.
  • Encourage your teen to ask you or a doctor about the negative side effects of a prescribed medicine, how to watch for them, and what to do if a negative effect is suspected.
  • Alert your family physician that you are concerned, and ask him or her to speak to your teen about the importance of proper use of prescription medicines.
  • Keep prescription medicines in a safe place and avoid stockpiling them.
  • Promptly and properly dispose of any unused prescription medicines.
  • Provide a safe and open environment for your teen to talk about abuse issues.
  • Monitor your teen’s use of the Internet, especially for any illegal online purchases.


Inforamtion adapted from SAMHSA's Medicine Abuse Project


More Resources to Help You Start Talking



The Know! drug prevention and awareness program from Drug Free Action Alliance targets parents and caregivers of middle school students and empowers them to raise their children substance-free with a twice monthly electronic newsletter about current drug trends and other hot topics.

Teens in Union County believe it's very easy to get prescription drugs. 

And they're probably right. Prescription drugs which are frequently abused include pain medications, stimulant medications, and sedatives, and abusers most frequently get them from the medicine cabinet, not a dealer. 

Teens say that grandparents have a lot of medications they can get into. But buying prescription drugs is expensive, so some opt for an over-the-counter high, abusing cough syrup or liquid cold pills. 

Prescription drugs commonly abused incude Xanax, Percocet, and Adderall. 

Most report crushing and snorting the medications, but they can smoke some that are not crushable. 

Prescription drugs are the second most abused illegal substance, after Marijuana

Other Drugs Data