An Online Resource Center for Family and Friends of People Battling Drug Addiction

Science of Addiction

The number one source of drugs that teenagers abuse is their own home medicine cabinet. –Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at  

Prescription drug abuse is the use of medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feelings that are gained.


  • In 2010 (last year with full data) unintentional poisonings killed more Dane County, Wisconsin residents than automobile crashes. Misuse or abuse of prescription, over-the-counter or illicit drugs are a major cause. Opioid pain medication, when misused, can be especially fatal.
  • Prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana. These drugs include:
    • Opioids – often prescribed for pain relief (e.g., Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Kadian, Avinza, codeine)
    • Central nervous system depressants (CNS) – used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (e.g., Benzodiazepine (“benzos”)-Valium, Xanax, etc.)
    • Stimulants – often prescribed to treat ADHD (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall)
  • Marijuana IS addictive.  About 1 in 11 people who use it become addicted.
  • Most people who start cigarette smoking in their teens become regular smokers before they’re 18.
  • More than 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.
  • Ninety percent (90%) od drug and alcohol addictions begin in the teenage years.
  • Drugs mess with one’s brain wiring and signals.
  • Often our loved ones are abusing several drugs at the same time, such as CNS depressants and alcohol. This is especially risky and potentially deadly.
  • There is a treatment for drug addiction and it works.
  • Few teens receive treatment for drug abuse. It is estimated that fewer than 12 percent of adolescents who report symptoms of abuse or dependence on prescription opioids receive any treatment at all. Most teens don’t see the need for treatment. Those who do, report that they “are not ready to stop”, “don’t want others to find out”, “don’t want people to have negative opinions”, “believe they can handle their problem without treatment”. See the full research article at   Other research indicates that only about one in 10 people with addiction involving alcohol or drugs get treatment for their medical condition (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia U, 2012).
  • Few people successfully handle drug addiction on their own.

See:  Shatter the Myths, 32-page document from National Institute on Drug Abuse (pdf)

Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction, 16 page Research Report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (pdf)


  • Lock up any prescription drugs in a lock box, available at your local pharmacy or other suppliers.
  • Get rid of unwanted medications. Use the MedDrop Program.
  • Watch out for “Doctor shopping” – moving from doctor to doctor in an effort to get multiple prescriptions for drugs being abused.



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