Adolescents are turning to prescription medications for their “highs” more than any other drug except alcohol and marijuana. Abused medications include Vicodin, Xanax and even common over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

Experts associate the new form of substance abuse with advancements over the past decade in pharmacological treatment of chronic pain, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and anxiety. The same medications that are responsible for these advances can be harmful or fatal when misused.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the challenge for health care providers is to provide compassionate and effective care for those who need medications, while preventing the spread of prescription medications to those who do not.

Physicians and parents need training to recognize the non-specific signs suggestive of drug misuse, which include fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies, and poor school performance. The Academy recommends that adolescents be screened at all annual health maintenance visits for the misuse of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, including prescription and OTCs. Teenagers should never exceed the prescribed dose of OTCs.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics