Teens Say It’s Easier to Buy Prescription Drugs than Beer

Posted August 25, 2008 by

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“Pharming”, or the abuse of prescription drugs, is on the rise amongst 12 to 17-year-olds.

When asked which was easier to buy, beer, marijuana or pharmaceutical drugs, the number of teens and pre-teens who said that prescription drugs were the easiest has climbed to 19 percent, according to a new study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (By the way, 34 percent of the kids asked obtained those drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. The most popular drugs: Vicodin and Oxycontin.) I asked my pediatrician about this trend. “Lock up your medicine,” he warned. “Even if your child doesn’t ‘pharm’, his friends might. It’s becoming pretty commonplace for kids to walk into their friends’ houses and rifle through the cabinets for drugs, prescription or otherwise. Then they take them in various combinations just to see what will happen.” (He warned that abuse of OTC drugs, ie Robotripping, is also very common.)

The danger, according to experts, is that kids don’t see prescription drugs as being dangerous or even addictive.

The Columbia study also found a correlation between kids whose parents didn’t know they were out on school nights and substance abuse. (Half the kids said they were out, but only 14 percent of parents asked actually knew it.) One recommendation by the Center on Addiction and Substance abuse: sit down and eat together. 23 percent of Kids who only ate dinner with their family three times a week or less had tried marijuana. Kids who ate dinner with their families 5 times a week or more were much less likely to try any kind of drug.

Food for thought!

How do you talk to your child about prescription drugs? And have you ever had any reason to believe they or their friends were abusing OTC or pharmaceuticals?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Cat (Edit) Report

    I know months have passed and you probably know by now if it was a one time thing, or if you have a bigger problem on your hands. I have a son that is addicted to prescription drugs and pot. He has been in a wilderness school for 15 months now. He will be turning 18 in a couple weeks and can check himself out if he wants to. I strongly urge you to drug test him. Where my son goes to school, the directors tell us to drug test them randomly. They say that is the best way. I pray that you are one of the blessed ones that caught your child early and that he is not addicted. Take this very seriously! Also, lock up all of your prescriptions!!!!!!!!!!!! My son was getting the drugs from friends who were selling the drugs from their parents medicine cabinets. God Bless you!

  2. Beth (Edit) Report


    Go ahead and believe him, but don’t assume it won’t happen again. I’m going through this now with my 15 year old daughter, and I’ve learned to assume that she’ll use when the opportunity presents itself. All I can do at this point is not be the one to present the opportunity. It’s a big hassle, but it’s one less place she can find the prescription drugs to use. I truly hope this was a one-time thing for you, but Tammy’s advice is excellent, and I hope you follow it. I wish I’d know about this a year ago, and how tough life was going to get for our family with a user in the house.

  3. Tammy (Edit) Report

    As a mother of a 17yr old girl that is now an addict of any painkiller (prescription or not) she can muster up I would take a lot of measures to protect your child from getting any mind altering drug at all. There is a website that offers inexpensive drug test and it is a great place to start. You should take the time to learn as much as possible about all of the drugs kids are taking and the signs to look for when they are using them. From my experience taking one pill is trying them and taking more means that they liked what the pill did for them. This is the site for the test http://www.drugtestyourteen.com they have a lot of good information and they have a number you can call to ask questions.
    May God bless your family and home

  4. Jamie (Edit) Report

    This summer, I found out my son was secretly going into my bathroom and taking the painkillers that I use occasionally for an old back injury. I’m not sure what to do. He says he just wanted to try it and that he’ll never do it again. Should I believe him?



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