Myth: Teens Get Prescription Drugs From Street Dealers

Most Get Them from the Family Medicine Cabinet

Girl With Pill Bottle
Teens Have Easy Access to Some Drugs. © Getty Images

One myth surrounding the growing trend of teens abusing prescription drugs is that they get them from drug dealers. Although teens may know someone at school who will sell them prescription pills, that is not how most teens get the drugs that they use.

The truth is most teens get prescription drugs at home, from the family medicine cabinet. They steal the pills from the bottles in their own homes, many times without even being noticed.

Just as most teens get alcohol from parents or friends, the same is true for prescription drugs.

Drugs From Friends and Relatives

According to the Monitoring the Future study, a survey of almost 50,000 teens throughout the United States, these are the ways that teens get their hands on prescription drugs, from the most popular method to the least:

  • From home, buy stealing from the medicine cabinet.
  • From friends, by buying them or just asking for them.
  • From strangers, by buying them.
  • From illegal Internet pharmacies.

Available and Free Prescription Drugs

One of the reasons that prescription drug abuse by teenagers is increasing is because the drugs are readily available and usually free. In fact, seven of the top 10 drugs being misused by high-school seniors are legal prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Teens are abusing amphetamines, sedatives, tranquilizers, and the ADHD medication Ritalin, as well as over-the-counter cough medications.

Protect Your Medications

If anyone in your home has a prescription for any of the above drugs, and you have a teenager in the home, it is important that you keep your medications in a secure place and properly dispose of any unused medications.

If you are a teenager, you need to understand the dangers of taking drugs that were not prescribed for you and realize that it is illegal to do so.

Just because these drugs are medicine, doesn't mean that they are safe or legal to take.

More Information: Myths About Teen Prescription Drug Abuse


University of Michigan. "Monitoring the Future." 11 December 2008

National Council on Patient Information and Education, "Myth Busters: 6 Myths about Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse (PDF)." November 2009

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