Missouri Teens Turning Away From Street Drugs To Prescription Drug Abuse

Armen Hareyan's picture

Teen Drug Abuse

Missouri experts urged parents today to take action against the latest drug abuse trend among teens: abuse of prescription drugs to get high.

State data show that Missouri is following this national trend. Teens are turning away from street drugs and using prescription drugs, especially pain killers, to get high. In fact, in Missouri, teens are abusing pain killers, such as Vicodin or OxyContin, at a rate of eight percent -- slightly higher than the national average of seven percent. Pain killers like OxyContin and Vicodin are the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

At a press conference this morning, experts warned parents that teens are intentionally abusing prescription drugs to get high, wrongly believing that they are safer than street drugs. In addition, teens are getting prescription drugs for free and have easy access to them -- taking them from friends or relatives without their knowledge.

"Parents in Missouri need to know that prescription drugs are being abused by teens. These drugs are close to home and easy for teens to get their hands on," said Robert Denniston, Director of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign at ONDCP, speaking at the press conference. "Teens are also using the Internet to research dosages, interactions, and side-effects of prescription drugs, giving them a false sense of security that abusing prescription drugs is 'safe.'"

Teens say prescription drugs are not only accessible though their own medicine cabinets and those of their friends, but also easy to research and locate on the Internet. In fact, in Missouri and across the Nation, teens are using technology, such as the Internet and text messaging, to facilitate their drug use, and others are being exposed to drugs through other technologies, such as chat rooms and social networking sites. The State of Missouri and City of St. Louis declared this week Media Education Week, a great opportunity for parents to learn how their children use technology and how to avoid the risky information, including pro-drug messages, to which they may be exposed.

Although millions of Americans benefit from the proper use of prescription drugs, these drugs can be dangerous when taken without medical supervision or mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Teens who abuse prescription drugs to get high can suffer serious consequences, including addiction, strokes, seizures, coma, and even death.

"Most Americans safely and legitimately use prescription drugs to treat medical conditions. But when teens abuse these drugs to get high, lose weight, or self-medicate, it's a dangerous risk," said Dan Duncan, director of community services for the St. Louis area chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.


In the last five years, overall illicit drug use among teens has dropped by 23 percent nationally, but teen prescription drug abuse is an emerging concern. ONDCP recently released a White House Report, "Teens and Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Recent Trends on the Emerging Drug Threat," outlining national trends which show that new users of prescription drugs have now caught up with new users of marijuana. Prescription drugs are the second most commonly used drug teens use to get high, behind marijuana.

Research shows that children who learn about risks of abusing prescription drugs from their parents are less likely to use drugs, but only one third of parents say they have discussed the risks associated with the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines with their teens.

ONDCP is calling on Missouri parents to get educated about the dangers of prescription drug abuse by taking some concrete steps to protect their teens:

-- Keep track of quantities of prescription drugs in your own home, and the homes of relatives;

-- Talk to the parents of your teen's friends and ensure they have the same policy in their home;

-- Discard old and unused prescriptions;

-- Set and enforce clear rules about drug use, including prescription drug abuse, and establish consequences for breaking the rules;

-- Tune into and learn about your teen's online activities, use of technology, and exposure to pro-drug messages; and

-- Be observant and look for indications that your child may be abusing prescription drugs.