Prescription Drugs in the Home: The Risk They Pose to Teens

Prescription Drugs in the Home: The Risk They Pose to Teens

Alongside alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs are one of the three most common substances abused by teenagers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 20 percent of teens have misused prescription drugs by their senior year of high school.

How are Teens Getting Ahold of Prescription Drugs?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration states that two-thirds of teens who have misused a prescription drug in the last year say they have taken them from a family member or friend’s home.

Why Would a Teen Decide to Use a Prescription Drug?

Teens who get bored, want to test boundaries, or belong to a specific group might find themselves wanting to experiment with drugs at some point in their adolescence. Get Smart about Drugs lists risk factors that can influence teenagers’ decisions to abuse drugs:

  • Low grades or failure in school
  • Victim of bullying or cyberbullying
  • Low self-esteem
  • Parent or older sibling drug/alcohol abuse
  • Belief that there is little risk in using a drug

What Types of Prescription Drugs Are Misused?

NIDA says that commonly misused prescription drugs include stimulants, opioids and depressants.

How Can They Cause Harm?

Prescription stimulants are typically used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. When taken for the wrong reasons, short-term effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased breathing, decreased blood flow and increased blood sugar. At high doses, other effects include dangerously high body temperature, an irregular heartbeat, heart failure and seizures.

Prescription opioids are usually taken to help treat moderate to severe pain. If misused, they can cause drowsiness, confusion, nausea, constipation, euphoria and slowed breathing. If slowed breathing does occur, it can lead to hypoxia, a condition that occurs when there is a lack of oxygen going to the brain. Someone with hypoxia is at risk for being in a coma, having permanent brain damage, or even death.

Prescription depressants include sedatives, tranquilizers and hypnotics. These are generally used for treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions and sleep disorders. Misusing a depressant can cause a variety of side effects, including: Slurred speech, poor concentration, confusion, headache, light-headedness, dizziness, dry mouth, problems with movement and memory, lowered blood pressure and slowed breathing. 

It’s important to know that misuse of any of these prescription drugs can lead to an addiction or a substance use disorder.

Related: Renown Behavioral Health Services

Steps to Help Prevent Teens From Misusing Prescription Drugs

Lock Your Meds gives several tips on monitoring the presence of prescription drugs in homes:

  • Remove drugs from your medicine cabinet and hide them, lock them up or take them out of your house.
  • Safeguard all medicines that have to remain at home by monitoring quantities and controlling access.
  • Take inventory by writing down the names and amounts of medications you currently have and regularly check to see if anything is missing.
  • If your child is on prescribed medication, monitor the dosages and refills. Set clear rules, such as not sharing and always following proper dosages.
  • Warn your youngsters that taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs without a doctor’s supervision can be just as dangerous and potentially lethal as taking street drugs.
  • Supervise your child’s internet use: many pharmacy sites are not regulated and will sell your child medications without prescriptions.
  • Properly dispose of old, expired or unused medicines in the trash. Call your local Sheriff’s or police department for local take-back collection information. DO NOT flush medications down the drain or toilet, unless the label indicates it is safe to do so.

Related: NDAFW Helps Teens, Parents, Educators Talk About Addiction

Drug Take-Back Event

Participate in the local Prescription Drug Round Up event on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Turn in unused or expired medication for safe disposal at one of these drop-off locations: 


Raley’s – 18144 Wedge Parkway

Reno Elks Lodge – 597 Kumle Lane (across from Convention Center)

Smith’s – 750 South Meadows Parkway

Smith’s – 175 Lemmon Drive

Walmart – 5260 West 7th Street (MaeAnne)


Smith’s – 1255 Baring Boulevard

Acceptable items include unneeded prescription drugs (in original containers with patient name marked out), prescription liquids, and pet medications.



  1. this is very risky to take drugs without consulting to any knowledgeable person or doctor. we have to prefer to consult first. thanks for this post.