Prescription Drug Use Among Teens Remain High

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Today, CDC announced that the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS ) found that 1 in 5 high school students in the United States have used prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a doctor’s prescription.

This is the first year the survey assessed prescription drug abuse among high school students. This new survey by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control is showing that there is an ongoing problem in American youth.

Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network has estimate that in 2008 people 12-20 years old accounted for an estimated 141,417 of the 971,914 emergency department visits for nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals.

In addition, the survey found that, among high school students, 72 percent had ever used alcohol. Marijuana use was reported among 37 percent of students. Data showed that 6.4 percent of students had ever used cocaine, 4.1 percent had ever used methamphetamine, and 6.7 percent had ever used ecstasy.

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“Our Nation faces many public health threats that deserve our immediate attention. Among them, there is the pressing reality of drug overdoses. Teens and others have a false assumption that prescription drugs are a safer ‘high’,” said Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH, Director of CDC’s Injury Center Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. “These data and that from other sources show us that prescription drug misuse is a significant problem in both adolescents and adults.”

The survey showed that these teens were mainly misusing drugs to treat ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, like Adderall and Ritalin, or painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. Thewse medications are easy to get a hold of and kids often get their drugs either from other students or a parent.

Pharmacists warn that these heavy painkillers often contain high doses of acetaminophen and taking too much or combining it with other pills can quickly lead to liver damage or death.

The survey found the problem was most common among white students and those in higher grades in high school and boys and girls were equally likely to abuse these easy attainable prescription drugs.

"As a parent, I would want to make sure I cleaned out my medicine cabinet at home, that I made sure that any unused medications I had I would take out of the home," cautions Dr. Macary Marciniak.

This page is last updated on Sept. 22, 2013.

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