June 27, 2014 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at adolesecents’ increasing reliance on the Internet for procuring medicines illegally, and the role that peers have in influencing this dangerous behavior. 

A recent poll commissioned by Digital Citizen's Alliance (DCA) found that more and more young people are turning to the Internet for illegal prescription drugs. Once obtained, teens may abuse these medicines themselves or pass them along to friends, who may also use the drugs for unintended purpose.

What can we do, as parents and advocates, to help decrease this scary statistic? First, let's consider some of the factors involved in this harmful trend according to the 2014 DCA poll:

  • 32% of respondents said either they or their friends have taken prescription medicine to get through their final exams.
  • 33% of respondents said they got those pharmaceuticals without a doctor's prescription.
  • 72% say it is common for students to share presription medication with friends.
  • 28% of respondents either have themselves or have a friend who ordered prescription drugs over the Internet.

The common dominator in these statistics? Friends.

Whether in real life or online, teens place significant value on their friends - some will even put their social circle before their own family. Many teens feel that they need to be part of a group or clique; they want to have friends and a guaranteed invitation to activities, parties and other events that they believe everyone is attending. It may be cliché, but this is why it is imperative that parents start talking with their kids at a young age about making their own choices, believing in who they are and knowing that even if they stand alone in the right decision, they won't regret it in the long run. In other words, helping your child build self-esteem early will help him or her make better choices when faced with peer pressure as a teen.

We often hear about encouraging our teen to be an upstander, or someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right, when it comes to things like bullying. As a parent, how can you enable your teen to be an upstander? Arm your teen with information about the risks and side effects of abusing prescription and over-the counter (OTC) medicines. Talk to your teen about their friends and the impact of peer pressure. Chances are your teen will be more likely to avoid engaging in medicine abuse themselves, but also, as an upstander, proactively do something to stop their friends from abusing medicines.

Medicine cabinets aren't the only place where drugs are lingering: the Internet is a much harder cabinet to secure, which is why it is so important to help your teen understand the risks of medicine abuse and build the confidence to stand up to peer pressure.