Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise Among High Schoolers
Do you know where your prescription drugs are? Chances are your teen does. Pot, alcohol, steroids, cigarettes, meth, Ecstasy and LSD are being used less and less by American teenagers since the 1990s, but misuse of prescription drugs has been on the rise, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which has surveyed youngsters across the country since 1975.
A 2005 survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that 19% of U.S. teenagers reported having taken prescription drugs to get high. Vicodin has been particularly popular recently; a study by the University of Michigan in 2005 found that nearly ten percent of 12th-graders had used it in the previous year and more than five percent said they had used OxyContin. Both drugs are now more popular among high school seniors than Ecstasy and cocaine. Ritalin and Alderal, used most often to treat attention-deficit-disorder, are also being abused at an alarming rate. Even drugs you might not associate with “getting high,” such as those used to treat anxiety disorders such as Xanax or Valium, are prime targets for teens.
Teenagers may feel less stigma about taking pills because they see them as medicine. They’re also just easier to get. The 2005 Partnership survey found that many teens experiment with the prescriptions from their very own parents' medicine cabinets. Adults often forget about the pills once they have recovered from whatever malady they were prescribed for.
These prescription drugs are also worth serious money. The estimated street value of just one OxyContin pill is about $40. In May 2002 authorities at a high school in Mahomet, Illinois, discovered that 16 students were distributing Ritalin, OxyContin, and hydrocodone to other students. The school principal was alerted to the students' activities after he received a phone call from a parent who believed his son may have taken OxyContin from the parent's medicine cabinet to sell at school. According to the school superintendent, the students were selling their own medication or medication belonging to their parents or siblings. (Source: Associated Press, 24 May 2002.)
There are even reports of “pharm parties” where young people are encouraged to bring pills to share with the other participants. The pills are allegedly dumped into a bowl or bag and the partiers grab whatever catches their fancy, often mixing drugs that, in combination with each other or with alcohol, which is usually also present, can have a lethal effect.
Here are three important things you should do to prevent your child from misusing prescription medication:
EDUCATE yourself about medications that kids are abusing. Share this information with others who are in contact with your children such as school administrators, coaches and counselors.
COMMUNICATE with your kids. Talk to your teens and find out whether your kids are aware of their peers using medications without doctors' orders. Make sure they understand the dangers of taking any medication that has not been prescribed specifically for them.
SAFEGUARD medications at home and other places. Take an inventory of prescription and even over-the-counter medications such as cough syrup or allergy medications with epinephrine. Pay attention to quantities. Keep medications out of reach and out of easily accessible places like the medicine cabinet.
Teens must learn that pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit street drugs. They need to know it’s not just a matter of over-dosing, but that mixing different drugs, or combining drugs and alcohol, can be just as deadly. And they need to know that it is illegal to use, or to provide someone else with, a prescription drug that has not been prescribed specifically for them.
The National Resource Center can help.
Call Toll-Free: 866.870.4979