24/7 Support Line - Call Now
Free Insurance Verification
Verify your treatment coverage

Signs of Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

Is your teen is abusing prescription pills? Learning how to recognize the signs of teenage prescription drug abuse may help you save your teen from a life of addiction. Prescription drug abuse can take a horrible toll on the health and well being of teens. Prescription pills are some of the most commonly abused substances by teens. The majority of teens get the prescription drugs they abuse from family and friends, who may be unaware that the teen is taking their medication. If teens are successful at hiding their prescription drug abuse, parents and other relatives may unknowingly enable their teens to develop a severe addiction. To avoid endangering their teens, every parent should learn how to spot the teenage prescription drug abuse in their children and their children’s friends.

3 Minute Read | Published Sep 28 2023 | Updated Mar 07 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Edwin Gomez
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Edwin Gomez
Reviewed by

How to recognize the signs of teenage prescription drug abuse

Facts on teenage prescription drug abuse

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly abused substances by American teens after marijuana and alcohol. According to the 2016 Monitoring the Future study sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 18 percent of high school seniors abused a prescription drug in the past year. Teens take prescription drugs for many reasons, including:

  • to feel good or get high
  • to stop emotional or physical pain
  • to help them perform better at schoolwork or sports
  • to lose weight
  • to be accepted by peers
  • to experiment
  • to relax or relieve tension
  • to maintain an addiction

Warning signs your teen may be abusing prescription drugs

The prescription drugs that are most commonly abused by teens fall into three categories.   Opioids or painkillers, used to treat pain; depressants, such as anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives, used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and stimulants, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders. Because these categories of drugs treat such diverse symptoms, the warning signs of abuse are different for each. See if you recognize any of the following warning signs of abuse in your teen:

  • Opioid painkillers (OxyContin, codeine, Vicodin) – Euphoria, nausea, drowsiness, confusion, lack of coordination, constipation, and slowed breathing rate
  • Depressants, including sedatives and anti-anxiety pills (Xanax, Valium, Ambien) – Drowsiness, confusion, difficulty walking, slurred speech, poor concentration, dizziness, memory problems, and slowed breathing
  • Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine) – Reduced appetite, agitation, high body temperature, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, and paranoia

Behavioral signs your teen may be abusing medicine

While the physical signs of prescription drug abuse are unique to each drug type, there are certain changes that occur in teens’ behavior whenever they are abusing any type of prescription medicine. These behavioral signs of drug abuse include:

  • Abrupt mood swings or excessive hostility
  • Poor decision making
  • Marked increase or decrease in sleep
  • Appearing to be high, unexplainably energetic, or sedated
  • Lying about activities
  • Stealing, forging, or asking you to obtain prescriptions
  • Changing their peer group
  • Becoming neglectful of personal appearance

 Is your teen is abusing prescription pills?

If you believe your teen is abusing prescription pills, it is important to address their abuse right away, before they develop a serious addiction. Early intervention is critical to your teen’s chances for making a successful recovery. Teens are often in denial about their drug abuse, and confronting them without preparation may have the undesired consequence of pushing them further away. A rehab center can give you advice on the right way to approach your teen about his or her drug abuse in order to bring about the most positive result, with your teen safely free from drugs. We can help you find a drug treatment center that will meet all your needs.


bullet Mayo Clinic
"Prescription drug abuse"
Retrieved on March 13, 2017
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse
"Prescription Medicines"
Retrieved on March 13, 2017

Related Articles

Clonidine Abuse Updated: Mar 06 2024 Clonidine is a medication used to treat anxiety, high blood pressure, and the symptoms of alcohol or opioid withdrawal. Clonidine is a depressant medication considered less harmful than...
Prescription Drug Street Names Updated: Mar 07 2024 By their formal names, prescription drugs sound far different than they do when referred to by slang terms. It’s common for people to...
Commonly Abused OTC Medications Updated: Mar 06 2024 OTC medications are those which you can buy over the counter at the grocery store or drug store. But just because they’re available without...

Free Insurance Verification

Our team is available to guide you through the steps of assessing your insurance coverage for addiction treatment.

Pixel Pixel