Adolescent Prescription and Over-the-counter Drug Abuse (YF1857)

Prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse and overdose are growing concerns across the nation and in North Dakota communities. In North Dakota, there has been a 59.7% increase in the number of controlled substance prescriptions dispensed between 2008 and 2015. Staying up-to-date on prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse trends is critical for today's caring adults.

Meagan Scott, Ph.D., Assistant Professor/4-H Youth Development Specialist

Chloe Krinke, NDSU Center for 4-H Graduate Assistant

The Truth About Abusing Over-the-counter and Prescription Medications

Why Do Youth Abuse?

  • Feel good or “get high”
  • Relieve or stop pain
  • Help with school work
  • Reduce appetite
  • Experiment
  • Relax/reduce stress
  • Escape reality
  • Fall asleep or stay awake
  • Feel accepted by others
  • Feed an addiction

What is Prescription/OTC Drug Abuse?

  • Taking a prescription/OTC drug not prescribed to you
  • Taking it in a way other than prescribed (larger dose)
  • Taking it for another purpose than prescribed (to “get high”)
  • Mixing a prescription/OTC drug with other drugs (alcohol)

Myth: Taking an extra pill from my prescription or giving one to my friend is not harmful because a doctor prescribed it.

Fact: Taking drugs that are not prescribed or taking them in any way other than a doctor directs can be dangerous.

Using another person’s medication or sharing your medication is against the law. – N.D. Century Code 19-03. 1-23.

Myth: Prescription and OTC drugs are safer than illegal drugs.

Fact: Prescription and OTC drugs can be more addictive and dangerous than illegal drugs. Users are at risk for adverse health effects and overdose. Legal does not mean safe.

After marijuana and alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.

Early substance abuse is associated with a greater likelihood of developing a substance use disorder later in life.

Most youth who abuse prescription drugs get them for free from a friend or relative, sometimes without the person’s knowledge.

Warning Signs of  Abuse

  • Missing medications
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions
  • Negative performance at school or work
  • Changes in hobbies or interests
  • Visits to internet sites with information on how to get and abuse prescription/OTC drugs to “get high”
  • Disrupted sleeping/eating patterns
  • Changes in friends
  • Changes in appearance and hygiene
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Excessive mood swings (irritability)

Widely Available: In North Dakota, the number of controlled substance prescriptions dispensed increased 59.7 percent between 2008 (935,201) and 2015 (1,493,847).

Medicine Abuse Project, 2013

 3/4 adults believe use is a problem

2015 North Dakota High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Reported substance use one or more times in life:

 ND High School Youth Survey

ND Prevention Resource & Media Center, 2017

Commonly Abused Prescription/OTC Drugs



Commercial Names

Street Names

Signs of Abuse


Relieve pain

Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Morphine, OxyContin

Lean, TNT, Vike, Oxy, Percs, Hillbilly Heroin

Dilated pupils, constipation, oblivious to surroundings, “nodding off,” uncoordinated, depression, slowed breathing

Depressants and Sedatives

Relieve anxiety or sleep problems

Xanax, Valium, Lunesta, Ambien, Mebaral, Quaaludes

Barbs, Phennies, Downers, Roofies, Candy

Rapid eye movement, drowsiness, slurred speech, poor concentration, confusion, slowed breathing, unsteady gait


Treat ADHD or suppress appetite (diet pills)

Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Phentermine, Topiramate

Bennies, Speed, Uppers, The Smart Drug, Vitamin R

Weight loss, high body temperature, irregular heartbeat, psychosis, paranoia, hair loss, insomnia, blurred vision, agitation

Dextromethorphan (DXM)

Ingredient in cough/cold medicines

Names that include “DM” (Robitussin or Mucinex)

Robotripping, Robo, Triple C, Dex, Skittles

Hallucinations, slurred speech, paranoia, disorientation, breathing issues, seizures, increased heart rate, vomiting

Proper Disposal

Reducing Access Will Reduce Abuse

North Dakota offers two free programs to dispose of unwanted medications: the Take Back program at participating law enforcement agencies and the Yellow Jug Old Drugs program at participating pharmacies. Visit to find a location near you. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label instructs to do so. For information on drugs that should be flushed or what to do if a drug take-back or collection program is not available, visit.

North Dakota Fast Facts

More high school students have abused prescription and OTC medications (21.8 percent) than have used synthetic drugs, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin combined (14.4 percent).

4.4 percent of middle school students and 14.5 percent of high school students reported using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Codeine, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax).

1.8 percent of middle school students and 7.3 percent of high school students reported taking OTC drugs to “get high.”

Taking Drugs before 18

 ND Prevention Resource & Media Center, 2017

Prevention Strategies for Caring Adults/Parents

  • Take inventory of all prescriptions and secure them in a locked area.
  • Talk to youth about the risks of abuse.
  • Keep communication open.
  • Monitor and supervise youth.
  • Keep updated and informed on the latest prescription/OTC drug trends.

ND Prevention Resource & Media Center, 2017

Fentanyl-laced Prescriptions

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is being found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription pain relievers or sedatives. Those who use laced prescription drugs are at a much higher risk of overdose and death. Because of its high potency, Fentanyl is deadly in very small doses; a lethal dose can be inhaled or absorbed accidentally through skin contact. Drugs obtained on the street, even if they look like a real prescription, may be fatal.

Filed under: , , ,
Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.