The Family Support Centre of the organization Irti Huumeista ry ( Free from Drugs) reports increasing numbers of contacts from families seeking help for teens or young adults who have fallen into the abuse of medications prescribed by doctors to ease, rather than cause problems.
"We are dealing with families in which the use of medication by the young has shifted away from what was intended. A doctor may write a prescription for medication classed as an intoxicant which has then become a problem itself for the young person," explains Maila Toivanen, the supervisor of Free from Drugs' Family Support Centre.
Toivanen says it is important for parents to keep a closer eye on prescription drug use by their children in order to prevent the slide into addiction. Some of the clients seeking help at the Family Support Centre are high school pupils, most however are young adults.
"The background is often anxieties or changes within the family that are reflected in interpersonal relationships. These conditions are treated with medication. Some of the young are, for example, under stress at school and they seek relief," Maila Toivanen says.
Easy to obtain
The use of psychoactive medication by teens and young adults has shot up since the start of the decade. Some of those working with the young think that medication is too easily on offer from doctors. This is the impression gained by Timo Hartika, the Headmaster of a Helsinki upper secondary school focused on the natural sciences.
"When our student welfare team looks at cases, there is the feeling that more and more stressful situations are managed with anti-depressents. It also seems that the increased use of medications stems from the fact that they are too easily prescribed."
Maila Toivanen of Free from Drugs also says that those seeking help from her organisation themselves find that medication is easily obtainable.
"Indeed, I'd say that in some cases medication has been too easily prescribed. For example, if a dating relationship breaks up, it can cause feelings of anxiety. It's important in such a situation to learn to deal with these anxieties," says Toivanen.
She adds, however, that medication is sometimes needed and that not all are addictive. But, at the same time, she points to the need for discussion and family support in dealing with stress and anxieties.
More forged prescriptions
Prescription medication abusers are also causing more work for the police. The number of forged prescriptions has been on the rise over the past few years.
Inspector Ritva Elomaa of the Helsinki Police Narcotics Unit says that most forged prescriptions are made by young adults between 20 and 30 years of age. Narcotics police see few younger problem users.
"There have been cases of young adults who originally got hooked after being prescribed medication by school health services. That was the start of their careers in crime. Those we deal with, however, are not really the middle school or high school students. Their problems are handled by social services and school health services."