Why More Teens are Abusing Prescription Drugs

First, let us get your attention: A whopping one in five high schoolers has taken a prescription drug like Vicodin or Oxycontin that wasn't prescribed for them. And 41 percent of teens mistakenly believe that it's safer to use Rx meds to get high than to use illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin. "Look in our medicine cabinets, they're filled with this stuff," Drew Pinsky, M.D., addiction specialist and host of Celebrity Rehab told REDBOOK. "Every kid knows someone who's on a psychosocial drug. They think, how dangerous could they be? But how many celebrities have to die of this before we get this message?"

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In the past several years, Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson, and Anna Nicole Smith have all died suddenly after accidentally ingesting a deadly concoction of prescription drugs. "I was raised by a general practitioner who used to tell me that medications are something you use only when the risk is warranted-he made sure I knew that medications can hurt you," says Pinsky. But that message seems to be lost on this generation, and every single day 2,500 young people use a prescription pain killer to get high for the first time. Unfortunately, these "opiates and benzodiazepines are profoundly addictive," says Pinsky.

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That's why Pinsky has joined forces with the National Association of School Nurses for a campaing they're calling "Smart Moves, Smart Choices" to educate kids and parents about Rx drug abuse. One of his main takeaway messages? If parents suspect any kind of drug use-because of falling grades, missing pills in your cabinet, or a sudden change in appetite or behavior-they should go to their child's school and pediatrician for help right away. Drug abuse and addiction "is not a parenting problem, it's a mental health problem," and you need professional help, he says. For more resources-and helpful videos from Dr. Drew-go to SmartmovesSmartchoices.org.

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