Rx Drug Abuse Is on the Increase, HHS Reports

Ken Rankin
Published Online: Monday, November 1, 2004

New research suggests a disturbing trend toward prescription drug abuse among the nation's teenagers?a development that health officials say could create new opportunities for pharmacists to counsel youths and their parents about the dangers of recreational Rx drug use.

Although the reported use of "street drugs" such as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy has dropped, the latest results from the government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health found a 5% rise in recreational Rx drug use by individuals age 12 and over, and a 15% increase in Rx abuse by 18- to 25-year-olds.

Much of the abuse involved prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet, but the researchers also reported significant misuse of psychotherapeutic medications.

"There were 6.3 million persons currently using prescription medications nonmedically in 2003, about 2.7% of the population aged 12 or older," an official at the Department of Health and Human Services said. "Of these, an estimated 4.7 million used prescription pain relievers; 1.8 million used tranquilizers; 1.2 million used stimulants, including methamphetamines; and 0.3 million used sedatives."

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