By the time Jessica McDonald was 13, she had already started drinking, smoking marijuana and using Adderall — a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — to get high. Physically abused by her father and feeling aimless, the Corona, Calif., girl quickly became an addict, racking up five DUI convictions while high on Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.

“I had a lot of anger inside, and I was trying to numb those feelings, trying to get away from what happened,” said McDonald, now 24 and the veteran of 19 stays in drug rehab facilities. “I felt like a loner and I didn’t fit in at school. I wanted to have friends, and the ones I used [drugs] with were the ones who took me in. They were my friends.”

In many ways, McDonald’s story is timeless. But her drugs of choice — prescription pills — highlight an increasingly pervasive problem among U.S. teenagers, who are abusing such medications in record numbers.

Nearly 8 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in 2010, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

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