Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Grows

Prescription drug abuse among teens is a persistent problem that is on the rise in some areas, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Among tenth graders, nonmedical use of OxyContin and Vicodin has taken an upswing over the past 5 years and from 2008 to 2009. For OxyContin, the percentage of users rose to 5.1% in 2009 from 3.6% the previous year. Vicodin use was at 8.1%, compared with 6.7% in 2008.

Of twelfth graders, 1 in 20 reported abusing OxyContin and close to 1 in 10 reported Vicodin abuse. In the survey’s first-time inquiry about the use of Adderall, more than 5% of sophomores and seniors reported abusing the drug.

By conducting classroom surveys of eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders, the researchers found an ongoing high rate of nonmedical use of prescription drugs and cough syrup among teens. Alarmingly, 7 of the top 10 drugs abused by twelfth graders during the year prior to the study were either prescription or OTC medications.

The high school seniors surveyed revealed the ways they acquire the prescription drugs, with 66% reporting that they got the drugs from a friend or relative. Of that group, 12% admitted that they “took” them; 19% reported getting the drugs through a doctor’s prescription; 21% said they purchased them; and 33% stated that the drugs were given to them. For other articles in this issue, see:

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