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While you are preparing to open your home to guests this holiday season, it’s a good time to take a look in your medicine cabinets and put away any prescription medication that is sitting out. Prescription painkiller abuse continues to be on the rise in the U.S. Surveys show that after marijuana, it is the second most widely abused drug amongst teens. Specifically, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, between 8 – 10% of high school seniors reported that they used Vicodin or OxyContin in 2011 for fun. When asked why, many teens respond by explaining that they don’t think it’s a very dangerous form of recreation (unlike heroine or crystal meth) and they like the high. They see their parents popping pills with no apparent problem and this type of drug is often easy to find in many households, including their own. Ex addicts often report that they would go through the bathrooms at other people’s homes to find any pills they could get a hold of.

The truth is that prescription drugs like Oxycodone are widely prescribed for aches and pains after dental work, minor surgeries or for persistent back pain and they are highly powerful. They work by blocking the nervous system from sending pain signals to the brain. They also have the sought after side effect of making the consumer feel good, which is what the teen users are looking for.

Drugs that should be kept under lock and key include brand names like Oxcontin, Lorcet, Percodan, Percocet, Lortab, and Darvocet and Demerol. These are potent medications that are meant to be prescribed to adults for short-term relief. Unfortunately, because they are a synthetic form of Opium, they are highly addictive and extremely difficult for some people to stop.

Some signs that an individual might be taking or is addicted to painkillers include small pupils, itching or flushed skin, slurred speech, confusion, euphoria, and nausea or vomiting. If the individual needs to keep taking more and more to lessen the pain or feel the high, they are developing a tolerance and physical dependency. Withdrawal from painkiller abuse can look like enlarged pupils, sweating, increased anxiety, cramping, tremors, confusion, insomnia and flu-like symptoms. The side effects that most experience from withdrawal generally last from 1 day to 1 week after the last dosage. The side-effects of withdrawal aren’t life threatening but it’s definitely a very tough time and after a day or two, some people can’t take it and go back to them.

Addiction is no picnic and teens should also know that if they are caught with loose prescription drugs, they will face legal consequences. This means that parents will be notified, parents will miss work to accompany them to face the charges in court, and money will be paid out for attorneys fees. If the drugs are in individual zip locked baggies or in a bottle with the label pulled off, the teen might be charged with intent to sell regardless of what their intent was. In many courts the individual might have to spend a night in jail or at the very least, they will have to take a drug education course. It’s a very big deal for some dangerous fun. Don’t let your teen get involved with any type of drug use. If you notice a problem, get help today!