Partnership Survey Confirms Teen Prescription, OTC Drug Abuse
> 5/17/2006 9:24:29 AM

The most recent evidence of the growing teen prescription and over-the-counter drug epidemic comes from the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Released this week, the non-profit coalition's independent findings echo many of those reported in the earlier "Monitoring the Future" survey, covered here. The Key Findings from the Partnership study highlight some frightening trends.
  1. Abuse of Rx/OTC medicines is now so prevalent it is “normalized” among teens.

  2. Nearly one in five teens (19 percent, or 4.5 million) report abusing prescription medications to get high; and one in 10 (10 percent, or 2.4 million) report abusing cough medicine to get high.

  3. Two in five teens (40 percent, or 9.4 million) agree that Rx medicines, even if they are not prescribed by a doctor, are much safer to use than illegal drugs, while nearly one-third of teens (31 percent, or 7.3 million) believe there’s “nothing wrong” with using Rx medicines without a prescription “once in a while.

  4. The majority of teens (56 percent, or 13.4 million) agreeing that Rx medicines are easier to get than illegal drugs, teens see these substances as readily available highs.

  5. More than three in of five (62 percent, or 14.6 million) say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets, and half of teens (50 percent, or 11.9 million) say prescription pain relievers are easy to get through other people’s prescriptions.

  6. Nine in 10 parents of teens (92 percent or 22 million) say they have talked to their teen about the dangers of drugs, yet fewer than one-third of teens (31 percent or 7.4 million) say they “learn a lot about the risks of drugs” from their parents.
Each of these points to a disconnect in communication: between parents and children, between public health officials and parents, and between doctors and families. The fact that prescription drugs can be addictive, destructive and even deadly, is not new or obscure. Recent reports have shown that OTC and prescription medications now account for a significant (if not shocking) percentage of hospital ER visits.

CEO of the Partnership for a Drug Free America, Steve Pasierb, says that education, especially of parents, continues to be the number one weapon against this abuse.

"It's really a case now of accepting the fact that it's here... Clearly, this is a true problem in American society... That's why we're putting a lot of our attending (sic) on educating parents," Pasierb said. "They don't have a frame of reference in a lot of cases. This kind of behavior (prescription drug abuse) didn't exist when they were teens."

As we have stated before here, much of the groundwork in changing the national mindset on prescription drugs must also be done by the MDs who are responsible for putting many of these potent drugs on the streets in the first place. At the time, we advocated peer review as a powerful tool to fuel changes in the laissez-faire attitude that many doctors have toward prescribing even things like OxyContin or Vicodin, and that remains a viable option. As the Partnership survey confirms, and CEO Pasierb notes, this is a national problem, and only by concentrating some national attention on it, will a change ever truly emerge.

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