Kids’ misuse, abuse of prescription drugs climb

April 29, 2013

The problem of teenaged prescription drug misuse and abuse is growing dramatically. A recent survey paints an alarming picture of medicine abuse among adolescents in the United States.

The problem of teenaged prescription drug misuse and abuse is growing dramatically. A recent survey paints an alarming picture of medicine abuse among adolescents in the United States.

Data from the 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, a national survey of 817 parents and 3,884 students in grades 9 through 12 sponsored by MetLife Foundation and the Partnership at Drugfree.org, reveal that 1 in 4 teenagers admits to misusing or abusing prescription drugs at least once in his or her lifetime and 1 in 8 takes stimulants that were prescribed for someone else.

The prevalence of drug misuse/abuse among the survey respondents increased to 24% in 2012 from 18% in 2008-a 33% increase over 5 years. Among those who said they abused prescription drugs, 20% said they began the practice when aged younger than 14 years.

Twenty-seven percent mistakenly believe that misusing or abusing prescription medications is safer than using street drugs, and 33% said it is all right to use drugs that were not prescribed for them to treat personal injury, illness, or pain.

Nine percent of survey participants report having misused or abused stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall to improve academic performance in the last year (up from 6% in 2008) and 6% report abuse of the stimulants in the past month (up from 4% in 2008).

Ten percent of respondents reported misusing or abusing prescription pain relievers, including Vicodin and OxyContin, in the last year.

The researchers say that parents’ permissiveness and lax attitudes toward misuse and abuse of prescription medicines, along with easy access to prescription drugs in the family home or friends’ homes, make it easier for teenagers to obtain prescription drugs to use or share. They call for parents to monitor their children’s behavior; to discuss the dangers of prescription drug use and abuse as well as the risks of marijuana, alcohol, and synthetic drugs; to set clear expectations for total avoidance of these substances; and to model healthy behaviors themselves when it comes to using prescription drugs so to avoid sending the wrong message to their children.