Teen Drug Abuse: Street Drugs versus Prescription Drugs

In a previous post, we shared a helpful document regarding prescription drug abuse in teenagers provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration. A portion of that document discusses the difference – and similarities – between street drugs and prescription drugs, and why teenagers may be drawn to the latter.

prescription drug abuse“Street drugs” is the sweeping term that is used to refer to abused substances that are categorized as illegal. This includes, among others, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.

Prescription drugs are legal medicines prescribed to treat certain illnesses. According to Prescription for Disaster, most teenagers view the recreational use of prescription drugs as “safer” compared to street drugs. For one, prescription drugs are medicines, and can be obtained from doctors, pharmacies, friends and family members; there is no need to go to shady dealers in dimly-lit street corners.

There is also a way to find out the effects of prescription drugs; package inserts, advertisements and the Internet are able to provide this information.

This, of course, is a fallacy that needs to be corrected. While prescription drugs may have important medical applications, indiscriminate use and abuse is just as dangerous – and as illegal – as using street drugs.

Dr. Nida Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), described such an instance at a testimony before the House Government Reform Committee in 2006. Describing the effect of the prescription drug Ritalin, Dr. Volkow shares that the drug has a lot in common with cocaine. When taken orally as prescribed, and under the supervision of, a physician, it results in a gradual increase in the brain chemical dopamine. When taken intravenously, however, the increase of dopamine is rapid, which is the same as cocaine taken intravenously.

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