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Prescription Drugs

What are the most common prescription drugs being misused by teens?

Opioid is a broad term used to describe any type of substance, either natural or man-made (synthetic) that binds to opioid receptors in the brain (these control pain, and pleasurable, and addictive behaviors). Opioids include natural substances, such as codeine, morphine, and heroin; synthetic substances such as fentanyl and methadone; and semi-synthetic substances such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Commonly prescribed names: Vicodin, OxyContin, Subutex, and Endone. 

Amphetamines belong to a class of drugs known as stimulants and can be used to treat conditions such as Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. These drugs work by speeding up the messages traveling between the brain and the body. Commonly prescribed names: Adderall, Dexedrine, Focalin, and Ritalin.

Two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers in the past year say that they got them from family and friends, including their home’s medicine cabinets, making it important to safeguard medicine in the home.

What else should I know about these two drugs?


Teens claim to abuse opioid prescription drugs because they make them feel calm and happy, or high.  A teenager may have a doctor prescribe them opioids after surgery or injury. When used properly, opioids can help relieve pain, but when misused they can lead to addiction, overdose or even death. Signs of opioid abuse can include drowsiness, confusion, slowed breathing, cravings, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Common slang names: Happy Pills, OC, Oxy, Percs or Vikes.


Teens claim that they abuse amphetamines to stay more focused in class, to stay awake for all-night study sessions, to improve grades, or to perform better athletically. Some teens who abuse the ADHD drugs have their own prescription, while most report getting it from friends. Signs of amphetamine abuse can include sleeplessness, jitters, headaches, mood swings, weight loss, paranoia, seizures, fluctuating body temperatures, and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. Common slang names: Study Buddies, Smarties, Skittles, Amps, or Truck Drivers.

2% of high school students have taken prescription amphetamines and/or opioids in the last 30 days. 
5% of high school students have ever taken amphetamines and/or opioids.


Alcohol and Drug Foundation. "Amphetamines" 6 Oct. 2020.  Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

NIDA. "Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Opioids".  Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.


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