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Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Jumps 33%

By May 2, 2013

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The prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States has begun to affect our children as a new national survey shows a 33% increase in prescription drug use by teens since 2008. Unfortunately, the experts say, parents may be playing a role in their teens' attitude about the non-medical use of prescription medication.

Parents can take a more proactive role in preventing teen drug abuse, health officials said.

The latest The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org shows that one in four teens admit to misusing or abusing a prescription drug at least once in their lifetimes. That is an increase of 33% over the past five years.

Becoming 'Normalized' Behavior

The non-medical use of prescription drugs is becoming a "normalized behavior" among teens, the PATS survey shows. According to the latest data:

  • 24% of teens reports lifetime prescription drug misuse, compared to 18% in 2008.
  • Of that number, 20% misused prescription drugs before age 14.
  • 27% of teens believe using prescription drugs is safer than street drugs.
  • 33% believe it's "okay" to use drugs not prescribed to them.
  • 23% say their parents wouldn't care if they were caught using Rx drugs.

Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said the results of the latest PATS survey shows that things are going to get worse, unless parents step up.

The Problem Is Real

"These data make it very clear: the problem is real, the threat immediate and the situation is not poised to get better," Pasierb said in a news release. "Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and want to protect their kids. But the truth is that when misused and abused, medicines - especially stimulants and opioids - can be every bit as dangerous and harmful as those illicit street drugs."

"Medicine abuse is one of the most significant and preventable adolescent health problems facing our families today," he said. "What's worse is that kids who begin using at an early age are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who might start using after the teenage years. As parents and caring adults, we need to take definitive action to address the risks that intentional medicine abuse poses to the lives and the long-term health of our teens."

Pasierb said parents can help stem the abuse of prescription drugs by their children by talking to them about the dangers, safe-guarding prescription drugs in the home and by properly disposing of unused medications.

For teens, access is the key. Most teens who misuse prescription drugs get them from their own homes or the home of a friend.

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