Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, director of the National Institute of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health, interviewed Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for May's podcast, "Pinn Point on Women's Health."
The medications abused include pain medications such as Vicodin or OxyContin, as well as stimulant medications used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Volkow says adolescent girls have almost a 60 percent to 70 percent higher rate of abuse of these substances than adolescent boys.
"Adolescents and young adults take stimulant medications to improve cognitive performance, to study for an exam, or to prepare for something that requires a deadline involving intense work," Volkow says. Girls also take stimulants to lose weight, Volkow says.
Volkow conducted brain imaging studies to show how repeated drug use affects the brain.
"Not only are there disruptions in the circuits involved in reward -- the ability to feel pleasure -- and learning; but also in frontal areas of the brain that are involved with executive control and that enable you to make decisions, to judge, to control your desires and your emotions," Volkow says.
The podcast are available at http://orwh.od.nih.gov. Click "Prescription Drug Abuse" under podcasts.