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For teens

What are opioids?

Opioids are prescription pain pills. They are legal and can be prescribed by doctors for painful injuries or illnesses. If taken as directed by the doctor, opioids can help lessen and dull pain. However, if taken against doctors’ orders, it can lead to opioid abuse. Some commonly prescribed or used opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine.

Okay, but what does ‘opioid abuse’ mean?

Opioid abuse is if someone takes pain pills in a different way from how the doctor said the pills should be taken. Consider the following scenarios:
  • Your friend breaks his arm playing basketball. A doctor prescribes your friend some pain pills. Your friend is in a lot of pain so he takes his pain pills as the doctor instructs. A few weeks later, his pain goes away, but your friend likes the way the pain pills make him feel, so he keeps taking them. 
This is opioid abuse.
  • Your cousin lives with her grandma. Her grandma is home and in recovery from surgery. Her grandma was prescribed pain pills to help manage her pain until she’s fully recovered. After a few weeks, she is back to her old self, but she still has some pain pills left in the medicine cabinet. Out of curiosity, your cousin takes a pill from Grandma’s medicine cabinet. She likes how it makes her feel. The next day, she takes another. This becomes habit. 
This is opioid abuse.

  • There’s nothing better than spending a Friday night with your friends at a party. Good food, good music and a bonfire to go with it. A few of your buddies also bring pain pills to these parties. They take them, expressing how good the pills make them feel. You noticed they’ve started taking them during school, too.
This is opioid abuse. 

So, what’s the point?

The point is drug and opioid addiction can happen to anyone – including you, one of your friends, a family member, anyone! 

I think I know someone who might be addicted. What should I do?

If you think you know a friend or family member who might be addicted to opioids or other drugs, follow the five steps below:
  1. Notice the symptoms – Does your friend seem/act/look different to you?

  2. Face your friend – Approach your friend. Don’t feel uncomfortable. Remember it’s all for the best.

  3. Talk and listen – This is your chance. Talk calmly. Express your concerns. Mention the things you’ve noticed. Ask the question, “What’s going on?” Then, listen. Always listen.

  4. Support ‘em and don’t judge – A hug, an “I love you, man,” a fist bump. Whatever it takes to let them know they are not alone.

  5. Act now and get ‘em help – Now take the leap and get them help. Talk to an adult you trust: a teacher, coach or family member. If you don’t have anyone who you think could help, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357)
Teens at school

Related information

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If my teen is using, how will I know?

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