Tonight, I missed an important talk at our children’s school. School personnel discussed the rising crisis of prescription drug abuse among teens. Knowing the importance of the issue I thought I would look at this growing problem myself.
The numbers and misguided perceptions about prescription drug abuse among teens speak loudly. According to a 2012 study that was reported in the article “Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among Teens: Survey,” by Alan Mozes, more than 24 percent of high school student (more than 5 million young people) have abused prescription medications, marking a 33% increase from 2008. Within this same cohort, 13% stated they had experimented with common ADHD medications Ritalin and Adderall that were not prescribed for them, and that 20% of teens who admitted to using prescription drugs, admitted doing so before age 14.
Of this specific group, 27% believed that prescription drugs were less harmful than street drugs. One third of teens stated they did not have a particular issue with taking someone else’s prescribed medication, to help them with health concerns. One quarter of teens believed that their parents were more concerned with street drug use over prescription drug use. Approximately four out of five teens said they had talked about alcohol and marijuana; about one third had discussed crack cocaine, and only 14 to 16% teens had discussed painkiller/prescription drug abuse.
There were also troubling numbers from the parents’ side. One third of parents interviewed in the study believed that Ritalin or Adderal could boost their child’s school performance, even when there was not a diagnosis that warranted such drugs being taken. Twenty percent of parents stated they freely gave their teens a prescription they had on hand that was theirs and not diagnosed for their child. Sixteen percent of parents said they thought prescription drugs were safer than street drug.
These results were from a study that was done by the Partnership at Drugfree.org, in conjunction with the Metlife Foundation in 2012. The sample population was a nationally representative groups of3,900 teens in grades 9-12, enrolled in public, private, and parochial schools, along with more than 800 parents, who completed home interviews
What’s the take away from such a study as reported in US News? The first one that jumps out to me is the steep increase from 2008. Five million teens abusing prescription drugs marks a 33% increase in such a short time! Also what stands out for me are the strong misconceptions among teens and parents alike. There are significant numbers among both camps who do not see this behavior as dangerous, as the use of street drugs. Steve Pasierb, president CEO at the Partnership Organization, who helped conduct the study states:
“The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it.”
This of course is so dangerous on many fronts. Denial and ignorance on the topic are the road to nowhere. This is occurring at an alarming and epidemic rate! The point of access is also so troubling. The study found that 56% of the prescription drugs teens are using came from their parent’s medicine cabinet, without any obstacles to access them. The problems that can stem from prescription drug abuse can be incredibly injurious and deadly in their own right, leading to addiction, accidental overdose; and/or serving as the gateway to heroin and other street drugs as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). My note to self is that I need to be greater informed ; our teens need to be greater informed; and that medicine cabinets should be monitored/watched for proper use of medicines, supplies, etc. It perhaps is also my note for you….