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Prescription Drugs: Easier For Teens To Get Than Beer

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It used to be that underage teens looking for a high would use a fake ID to get alcohol or buy drugs like marijuana from classmates or friends. Today they have to look no further than their parents’ medicine cabinets.Non-medical use of prescription drugs among teens is soaring and studies show some parents are enabling their kids. The problem stems from many factors, including easy access to painkillers and other drugs, and some teen abusers who feel “safe” using a legal drug prescribed by a doctor.The abuse of prescribed drugs is a global issue, and researchers say teens are using stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, depressants or tranquilizers including Xanax, and opiate painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.In August, Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIII: Teens and Parents. The center surveyed 1,002 teens, ages 12-17, and 312 of their parents.


Although most parents surveyed admit being concerned about raising a child in today’s society, the study found, many failed to take the necessary action to prevent them from smoking, drinking and taking drugs.
Most disturbingly, the study said, some parents enable the use, while others encourage it. Failure on the part of the parents was attributed to factors such as:

  • Not monitoring whereabouts of their children
  • Not safeguarding prescription drugs like painkillers
  • Not addressing drug problems at school or with their children’s friends
  • Not setting a good example in the home

These “problem parents,” as the study calls them, became “passive pushers” by having unsecured prescription drugs in the home. One-third of teens surveyed said drug abusers they know had access to pills at home. Another third said they could get prescription pills from friends or classmates.
“The ready availability of prescription drugs in the home may also be a contributing factor in the 46% increase over last year in the percentage of teens who say prescription drugs are the substance they can most easily obtain,” the study said.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2006, 16.2 million Americans 12 years of age and older had taken a prescription painkiller, tranquilizer or sedative for non-medical purposes at least once in the previous year.
A 2007 study by the institute found Vicodin abuse by 2.7% of eighth-graders, 7.2% of tenth-graders and 9.6% of twelfth-graders. Abuse of Oxycontin was reported by 1.8% of eighth-graders, 3.9% of tenth-graders and 5.2% of twelfth-graders.
Risk factors for families and drug abuse include:

  • dynamics in the home.
  • level of parental involvement.
  • School and neighborhood environment.
  • friends of teens who abuse drugs or alcohol.

Drug experts say parents, grandparents, other relatives and caregivers must lock up all prescription drugs, keep an inventory of how many pills are in each container and discard unused pills in a safe way.

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