Getting High With Medicines: Trendy, Risky, Lethal...
Teens are taking prescription pain relievers and over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines just to
By HISI Staff
Photo by Eduardo Barraza
Forget about street drugs like marijuana, cocaine, or LSD: the trend among teens seeking to get high is
taking prescription drugs. Of course, many teens still stick to the old traditional drugs, but many others
have found prescription and over the counter medications easier to obtain and with the same punch effect
Teens who are intentionally abusing prescription and OTC (over the counter) drugs, to get high are also
finding out that controlled and legal drugs can be just as addictive as illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine,
The trick many young people are falling into is the false impression they have about prescription or OTC
drugs as safe drugs. Of course, when taken properly, prescription and OTC drugs can be taken safely, but
teens who are purposely abusing them to get high, are not following the dosage recommended.
This translates into dangerous scenarios in which a teen does not take a couple of pills or tablets, or
tablespoon or two of cough syrup to get better. Teens are gulping down amounts that can go from a few
pills to dozens or more a day! Some are deliberately abusing legal drugs by drinking up to 3-5 bottles of
cough syrup a day, or making risky cocktails using alcohol.
Thus, teens may become drug addicts in what may seems to them safe by not taking prescription drugs
without a doctor’s approval and supervision, but abusing them to rather unsafe, even deadly levels. Kids
are abusing painkillers, sedatives, stimulants. A common stimulant is Ritalin®, a drug used for attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA), almost half (48%) of all emergency department visits resulting from overdoses
from an ingredient found in many cough syrups, dextromethorphan (DXM), were patients 12-20 years-old.
Teens who are involved in this new way of getting high fail to realize that, when used and abused outside
of doctor’s directions, prescription drugs can deliver a very hard - sometimes fatal - blow. Young people are
being deceived by the fact that these drugs are not branded as “illegal,” but their components are as
addictive as those of street, illegal drugs; abusing them can lead to similar health effects, including
paranoia, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
Across the nation, a growing number of teens are getting involved in the trend known as Pharming, which
consists in getting together and getting high by “partying” with prescription and OTC drugs. Kids are
“pharming,” by grabbing a handful of prescription drugs and swallowing some or all of them, often with
Not surprisingly, young people have access to this type of drugs in the family’s medicine cabinet, but some
are ordering them online from illegal pharmacies, using them and sharing them with friends at school.
Published by the Hispanic Institute of Social Issues in Phoenix, Arizona
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