MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Xanax, Hydrocodone, and Oxycontin are all drugs you can pick up at your local pharmacy. They are completely legal and helpful when in the right hands and taken in the right doses.
The problem comes when someone else who they drugs are not prescribed to starts taking them. They can tear a family apart and leave those on the outside feeling helpless.
Former addict Tyler Thompson knows this all too well.
"I'd say, I probably smoked weed for the first time when I was 13," Tyler Thompson said. "I did that for a long time,"
Thompson says he was first introduced to prescription drugs in the ninth grade.
"I just got pain pills from family members out of the medicine cabinet," Tyler Thompson said. "I tried it and I liked it. At first, it began as something you do on the weekends. Then maybe four times a week until eventually, you're doing it every day,"
Soon what started out as recreational use spiraled out of control.
"It was pretty much chaos in our house on a daily basis," said Tyler's mom Cindy Thompson.
"I got kicked out of my house at the age of 17," Tyler Thompson said. "I didn't have anywhere to go at the time. I've been in jail and in and out of treatment programs."
Sadly, the Thompson family is not alone. Teenage prescription drug abuse is a growing problem that doesn't seem to be slowing down.
"I think they see it as something not as dangerous because it's a pill," said Towanda Thornton with the Drug Enforcement Administration. "It's not marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, it's just a pill. But that can be deceiving because it's just as addictive and just as dangerous."
"When you take Xanax along with alcohol or another opioid it magnifies or multiplies the effects. So, you don't really know how much it will affect you. It may be more than you're hoping for or it may put you to sleep forever," Dr. David Herrick, the president of the Alabama Medical Association said.
Scary but true. Even more concerning, the problem could be you.
"If we don't want them brought into the schools then don't have them around the house in the first place if they're not being used," said Thornton.
The simple fact is that officials say these pills are easy to get.
"These days it's being handed out like candy," said Cindy Thompson. "Xanax, pain pills, all of that stuff."
There are some warning signs that your teen may be abusing prescription drugs. This from Soberliving.com
Look for things like:
- Missing medication
- A sudden change in friends
- A change in person appearance
- Big change in sleeping patterns
- An unexplained need for money
- A big change in personality
The DEA is also doing its best to educate students and keep these drugs out of our schools. It visits schools to talk to kids about addiction. It also shows them a video called Chasing the Dragon.
It also has two prescription drug take-back events every year so people can get rid of unneeded prescriptions with no questions asked. The next one will be October 28th.
The DEA also has a Tactical Diversion Squad, whose sole purpose is to investigate pharmacists who operate outside the law, writing prescriptions for way too much or for people who don't need it.
For more information on drug addiction, types of drugs typically abused and what to look for in your teen, check out the PDF below:
Cindy Thompson started a local chapter of PAL, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones. You can get information about the group by going to this Facebook page.