Parents of Emerging Adults (ages 18-late 20's) are important partners in the prevention of drug abuse. In New Hope Recovery Center’s continuing efforts to assist parents, we want to pay special attention to a serious problem impacting Emerging Adults: prescription drug abuse which is the intentional use of medication without a prescription.  Parents may not be unaware of how serious this problem has become, so we want to share 5 must-know facts for parents of Emerging Adults.

1.  Prescription drug abuse is on the rise among Emerging Adults

It is true that alcohol and marijuana continue to be at the top of the list for substance abuse, but prescription drug abuse has been escalating quickly and is flying under the radar.  In fact, prescription drug abuse is highest among Emerging Adults. Did you know that by sophomore year in college, about half of your child’s classmates will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug? Emerging adults have easy access to prescription drugs either from their parents’ medicine cabinet, a prescribing doctor or peers.  With easy access to prescription medication and the rise of prescription drug abuse, parental education is even more important.

2. Sedatives, Pain Relievers and Stimulants are most abused

It is important to recognize that sedatives, pain relievers and stimulants are commonplace in many households.  Sedatives are prescribed to treat depression and anxiety and include medications like Valium, Ativan and Xanax. Pain relievers are prescribed to treat pain and include medications such as Demerol, Percoset, Vicodin and OxyContin.  Stimulants are prescribed to treat ADHD as well as narcolepsy and include medications such as Ritalin, Vyvanse and Adderall.  If these prescriptions are in your household or prescribed for your Emerging Adult, it is recommended that you keep the medication in a safe place, monitor the medication usage closely and get rid of any unused medications.

3.  Emerging Adults abuse prescription drugs to manage personal difficulties and stress

Prescription drugs may not have the same stigma as other drugs because they are medically prescribed by doctors.  This causes some Emerging Adults to rationalize their use of these drugs.  This is concerning because of the damage to the body caused by prescription drug abuse. Emerging adults are increasingly using prescription drugs to manage the personal difficulties and stress in their lives.  They may abuse prescription drugs to:

  • Manage stress
  • Avoid feeling pain
  • Feel good or get high
  • Ease social nervousness
  • Forget about problems
  • Lose weight
  • Improve concentration
  • Improve academic or athletic performance

By teaching Emerging Adults the life skills  to manage emotions and stress more effectively, parents can offer them healthy tools that may curb prescription drug abuse.

4. Vast increase in stimulant abuse to improve academic performance

Adderall, a medication that is prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy, has become known on college campuses as the “study drug.” For many college students, the adjustment to college life, as well as the academic demands placed on them, can be stressful.  The pressure to do well and to fulfill parental expectations sometimes causes students to seek out ways to get in the zone, to pull all night study sessions and to get good grades.  Adderall has become problematic in that Emerging Adults turn to it as the solution for improving performance. The sought after effects of the drug include increases in alertness, attention, concentration and energy.  The problem, however, is that most Emerging Adults neglect the long-term health effects and the potential for addiction.

5.  Prescription drug abuse has detrimental effects on Emerging Adults’ health

While prescription drugs can provide tremendous relief for serious health problems, abuse of these drugs poses serious health risks and the potential for dependence. Prescription drug abuse changes the brain chemistry of an Emerging Adult.  It may result in an increased tolerance where the individual continues to need more of the drug to get the same effect.  If this behavior gets out of control, an Emerging Adults is at risk for addiction as well as serious health effects.  Opioids and other pain relievers can result in vomiting, breathing difficulties, coma or even death. Sedatives may cause seizures and memory problems.  Stimulants can result in paranoia, aggressive behavior, increased heart rate or respiration, elevated blood pressure, sleep disorders and suppressed appetite. If these symptoms are obvious, it may be a sign that an individual needs help.

Research shows that emerging adults who take prescription drugs for non-medical reasons are at least five times more likely to develop a drug abuse problem than those who do not. Parents can help by talking with their children about prescription drugs, educating them about the effects of prescription drug abuse and providing referrals for support when it is appropriate to seek help. We trust that if you are reading this blog you are on the right track!

Getting Help

New Hope Recovery Center has an Emerging Adult Program which provides education and important life skills training to help Emerging Adults.  In addition, we offer several treatment options for Emerging Adults who are dependent on alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs.  If you or someone you love needs help, please contact us!