Elk River Treatment Program Reports on Adolescent Prescription Drug Abuse

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The Elk River Treatment Program's recent research suggests that adolescent males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD and as a result these males are treated with stimulant medication. When stimulant medication is abused by males they report a similar high as with cocaine and meth abuse.

Martez R. Rogers, an Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) at the Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP) in north Alabama recently reported on the alarming rise in prescription drug abuse and its effects on adolescents. His experience with struggling teens at the ERTP Program in north Alabama has given him some clues to possible reasons for the increase. Elk River Treatment Program research suggests that adolescent males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD and as a result these males are treated with stimulant medication. When stimulant medication is abused by males they report a similar high as with cocaine and meth abuse.

According to the 2012 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, the most commonly abused prescription and over the counter drugs are Opioids, such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin, central nervous system depressants including Xanax and Valium, and stimulants like Concerta and Adderall. Drugs available without prescriptions, also known as over-the-counter drugs, can also be abused. DXM (dextromethorphan), the active cough suppressant found in many over-the counter cough and cold medications, is one example. It is sometimes abused to get high, which requires large doses (more than what is on the package instructions) that can be dangerous.

According to Mr. Rogers, in clinical practice it is reported by Elk River Treatment residents that the oxy – OxyContin or percs - Percocets, when taken with alcohol often results in the feeling of "faded." Faded is a disassociation with the immediate environment and a free floating type of high. This is particularly dangerous because the alcohol depresses the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the opioid reduces pain, and as a result the adolescent is not aware that they are losing consciousness - hence the term faded.

Mr. Rogers also says the same phenomenon is reported with the combination of Xanax and alcohol (more commonly known as bars or barred out), however, Xanax is also an anti-anxiety medication that further puts the adolescent at risk because not only are they losing consciousness but they are less anxious; as a result the fight or flight response system is compromised and they cannot flee a dangerous environment.

DXM, the active ingredient found in cough suppressants and other over the counter cough medicines, has become a sought after “high” by adolescent males and females admitted to the Elk River Program. The most reported abuse is of Triple C's, Coricidin Cough and Cold, most commonly known as skittleing. Skittleing refers to the resemblance of the candy skittles. Teens report taking a minimum of 8 tablets to achieve a high because the actual dose of DXM per tablet is minimal; the high reported is a detachment or disassociation with the self, distortion of sensation and perception or the tripping high associated and reported by hallucinogenic abusers (mushrooms, acid, etc.).

Parents are strongly advised to keep prescription and over the counter medication in a safe place where the adolescent can be monitored when taking prescribed medication or over the counter remedies. Parents should be cognizant if their teen has increased interest in liquid, pill, or capsule form cold, flu, and cough medication.

The Elk River Program is a residential adolescent treatment program of The Pinnacle Schools, Inc. For more information, please contact Mr. Rogers at The Pinnacle Schools (256) 518-9998 or martezrogers(at)thepinnacleschools.com.

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Selina Mason
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