How to Identify Common Pills Abused by Teens

Identify the pills, then have a serious conversation

Teenage girl (13-15) pouring out pills into hand, rear view
SW Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

You're not the first parent to find a few pills in your child's pocket while washing his clothes. Considering the epidemic of prescription drug addiction and an uptick in overdoses around the United States, it's unfortunately not a surprise. Addiction is an inclusive disease that does not discriminate by social or economic status.

Unfortunately, some kids use, abuse and sometimes become addicted to drugs.

These days, this behavior goes far beyond 'traditional' substances, such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. Today, kids also abuse cough medicines, glue, and many prescription medications.

The Most Commonly Abused Pills

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include:

  • Opioids often prescribed to treat pain
  • Central nervous system depressants, often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Stimulants prescribed to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity

More specifically, the most commonly abused prescription drugs by brand and generic name are:

  • oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • meperidine (Demerol)
  • diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)

How to Identify Adderall

One blue pill you're likely to find is Adderall, which has the marking 'AD' on one side and the number '10' on the other.

If you use this pill identification wizard and search by Shape/Color using the terms 'round' and 'blue' the resulting long list of pills includes only one with markings that are also the same as the one you found. Adderall 10mg tablets.

Some kids take Adderall without a prescription simply to help them concentrate and to do better at school.

Most others take it to get high, either getting it from a friend or buying it at school. The youths either swallow them or grind them up and snort them for a quicker effect.

How to Identify DXM

A round and red pill with the markings 'C C + C' might also be among the cache of meds you just found in your kid's pocket.

Restarting the pill identification wizard, and again searching by shape and color, this time for a 'round' and 'red' pill, the list of pills again identifies your pill. Although there are many round, red pills, only one, Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold Tablets, has the 'C C + C' markings.

Although it is just a cold and cough medication, many teens actually abuse the dextromethorphan (also called DXM) contained in these little red pills. Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold is also known as 'triple C' and in addition to dextromethorphan, contains an antihistamine.

Teens take it in large doses because it produces hallucinations and other side effects. Deaths from kids abusing DXM and Coricidin have been reported.

You've Identified the Pills, What Next?

You've found the pills and identified what they are. Now, it's time to figure out what to do about it. If you don't think that a meeting with your child will go well or you don't feel comfortable talking to him about this, you might talk to a relative your child respects or go the professional route and schedule a visit with your pediatrician and/or a child psychologist.

Did you already suspect that your child was using or abusing drugs? This drug abuse screening quiz can help you see if your child has any of the warning signs that might indicate that he is using drugs.