Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment

The majority of abused drugs in the United States are initially obtained legally. More than 16 million citizens are diagnosed with diseases caused by smoking; another 18 million have some form of alcohol abuse disorder. Yet, we live in a country where millions of people continue to use marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol on a daily basis.

While the numbers show tobacco and alcohol use declining, other grey-area drugs like marijuana seem to be growing trendier. Prescription drug use has seen a notable increase, especially in areas where legislation was not as strong as it should have been. Drugs like Oxycontin, Adderall, and Xanax are commonly overprescribed and have been tied to new addictions. Some end up sold on the street or stolen from medicine cabinets.

What Does Prescription Drug Abuse Look Like?

  • It is not common to accidentally overdose on prescription drugs. The intentional use of these drugs (alone or in tandem with other drugs) can lead to addiction and harm. While Opioids, stimulants, and depressants need to be prescribed cautiously, they are more likely to be linked to addiction when abused for recreational purposes.
  • Teens addicted to prescription drugs will experience disruption in every aspect of their lives. They often become alienated, display disruptive behavior, destroy relationships, and have trouble with both home and school responsibilities.
  • There is a misconception that prescription drugs are safer than those obtained on the streets. In truth, prescription drugs can be every bit as harmful when taken without a doctor’s orders.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Confusion (Depressant drugs)

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Slurring speech (Depressant drugs)

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Memory problems (Depressant drugs)

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Trouble sleeping (Stimulant drugs)

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Irritation or agitation (Stimulant drugs)

Eating quickly or secretly

Decreased appetite (Stimulant drugs)

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Heart rhythm issues (Stimulant drugs)

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The most common three categories of prescription drugs considered to be addictive are depressants, stimulants, and opioids. Depressants include anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives; stimulants include drugs used to treat ADHD, including amphetamines; and opioids include drugs used to treat pain. While there are certainly other prescription drugs to consider, most do not post the same risk for the development of addiction.

Depressants - Individuals struggling with anxiety often struggle with a sense of fear. Drugs meant to combat anxiety impact the brain’s GABA activators, creating a sense of relaxation, happiness, or complete ease. They also impact the way dopamine is transmitted. Teens will often use drugs like Valium or Xanax to feel happier, but misusing them or taking the wrong doses increases the risk of addiction as the body adapts.

Stimulants - This category of drugs also impacts dopamine regulation, helping people who are easily distracted stay focused on a task while improving their sense of motivation. These drugs are not only addictive, but their improper use can also cause heart disorders, kidney problems, and insomnia.

Opioids – Drugs in this category act similarly to depressants, but also reduce pain. They can create a sense of high, relax the body, and cause a person’s breathing to slow. Misuse can easily lead to an overdose, making it even more difficult for a person to breathe and leading to possible suffocation. Opioids are incredibly addictive. Heroin, an illegal opioid, is a major player in today’s drug crisis.

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Teen Prescription Drug Abuse | Paradigm San Francisco

What Causes Prescription Drug Abuse?

Popularity – Teens are especially prone to peer pressure, and they are far more likely to do the same things others are doing, even if they think or know they are incorrect. Teens who abuse prescription drugs often try to get others to join them, while in other cases a teen may simply try them to fit in with others. Today’s teens feel a strong desire to fit in with a group or to create their own identities. Even teens who don’t understand how dangerous drugs can be may simply be curious enough to give them a try.

Self-Medication and Stress – It’s common for teens to looks for ways to cope with stress. Many don’t realize prescription drugs can alter their brains, so they don’t recognize the dangers of using them inappropriately. A lot of teens think stimulants will help them get good grades, though this is not actually the case. They actually end up restless, struggle to sleep properly, and misdirect their focus on things other than their classes and studies. Most teens do better when they are motivated to study and learn to better manage their time. Teens who are panicked and need to cram shouldn’t use stimulants other than caffeine. Have your teen seek professional help so they can be prescribed a proper anti-anxiety drug if they can’t cope alone.

Genetic Predisposition – There is no way to tell what type of tolerance leve a person might have to things like alcohol or drugs before they hit a threshold for addiction. Some people become more easily addicted than others, partially because of genetics. While some people can get away with experimenting one time, others can become addicted to the high in that same first session, developing habits and addictions.


of seniors in high school have tried Adderall (as of 2017)


of teens in high school confirm it’s easy to obtain prescription painkillers


of teens truly believe stimulants are good study aids

How Can I Help a Teen with Prescription Drug Abuse?

Demonstrate Drug-Free Living – Many teens think there are benefits to using prescription drugs. Talk to your teen about why they think they need them, listening objectively and without judgment, so you can better understand where they are coming from. While teens often perceive benefits, they don’t always understand the consequences of their actions. Many feel desperate and aren’t mentally or emotionally capable of assessing the risks involved. Compassionately exploring why your teen chose drugs will help you to convince them they aren’t needed.

Practice Avoidance – Your teen will need help living in a drug-free atmosphere. Abusing drugs doesn’t always lead to addiction, but teens who feel as though they have an emotional reason to continue will still have trouble stopping. Encourage your teen to consider residential treatment, a therapeutic approach, or alternative methods for relieving stress.

Learn to Cope Without Drugs – Once you and your teen’s therapist have identified why they started using, you can work on methods to avoid drug abuse. Some teens need to find new hobbies, while others need to practice more effective time management techniques. At the end of the day, your teen will need to feel comfortable dealing with life’s changing and mounting challenges as they transition into adulthood- without drugs.

What Types of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Are Available?

An all-encompassing treatment program has to address the reason a teen has turned to drugs as well as the physical side effects, mental effects, and any behavioral issues that develop.

Residential Treatment

It’s easy to develop a severe addiction and, as a result, teens may need a lot of support to stop using drugs. They’ll need emotional support as well as guidance as their bodies go through physical withdrawal. Our caring and dedicated doctors and therapists will do everything possible to guide teens through this challenging part of the process in as painless a manner as possible.

Talk Therapy

Therapy is important to recovering from a prescription drug addiction. Teens need a clear understanding of what led them to begin using to start with, as well as why they continued to use. In instances where the drug was legally prescribed, a therapist will help your teen find different methods for coping with their needs.

Alternative Treatments

A complete treatment program is about more than therapy. A lot of teens need to find new hobbies and outlets for their frustrations. These may include sports, music therapy, and other outlets they can use to vent their emotions now and in the future. The resources they discover will prove valuable as they learn to deal with all of life’s conflicts and stressful situations. These methods of treatment leave teens feeling empowered and give them options other than drugs.

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Most teens who abuse drugs do so because they are dealing with larger issues. Teens need the opportunity to take a step back, relax in a caring environment, and work with professionals who can help them explore healthier alternatives. Paradigm San Francisco is dedicated to creating a specialized treatment plan for each teen.

A Nurturing Environment

Our Paradigm San Francisco location is located in a calm, tranquil environment. The facility is specifically designed to make teens feel comfortable, as if they’re in a home away from home. We want each teen to feel safe and relaxed so they can focus on treatment. It’s not easy to get and stay clean; it’s important to create an environment conducive to healing.

Skilled Staff

Each of the doctors, therapists, and staff members at Paradigm San Francisco work hard to assess the individual teen’s unique challenges. There are no one-size-fits-all treatment plans here; we believe a patient-focused approach works best. No two teens are alike! We work diligently to make sure each teen has a plan that works best for them.

“When I first went into Paradigm, I believed that showing emotion was a sign of weakness, but quickly learned that it is truly a sign of courage and strength. I was extremely lucky to have Rob, Jay, Jess, Shannon, and Jeff's help. Their advice and kind words have stuck with me for over two years already. Paradigm helped me make changes in my life and break several bad habits. These changes have stuck and will continue to stick for the rest of my life. The Paradigm staff is fantastic, kind, funny, and overall a group of sincerely caring people who are more than willing to listen to your life story, and offer advice if you want it. The help the staff and other teens provide will help you create a more healthy and stable lifestyle."

– Taylor V.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment

What if I just use a drug occasionally, like to help with school work?

There is never a good or safe time to abuse a prescription drug. In most cases, people use prescription drugs to function in school when, in reality, they are simply masking mental health disorders that need to be diagnosed and treated. Abusing prescription drugs will only make the stress and pressure you feel from school and other life issues worse. Talk to a professional if you feel like your stress levels are beyond the norm. Illegal drugs aren’t the answer – but there are solutions that can help you live drug-free and feel better.

How can I tell that my teen has been abusing prescription drugs?

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to determine if a teen has been using drugs. First, look for physical evidence such as missing money, missing pills, extra unlabeled bottles, or unusual paraphernalia. Look at your teen’s physical attributes. Are they jittery, losing weight, unfocused, or restless? Are they avoiding social situations, refusing to answer your questions, or lying? These are all signs there is a problem, but they don’t necessarily always point to drug use. Talk to your teen and encourage them to be honest; let them know you want to help, not punish. The sooner you can get them to recognize drugs as destructive, the better.

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