Partnership for a Drug-Free America study finds 1 in 5 teens abused prescription drugs

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The 17th annual Partnership for a Drug-Free America study on teen drug abuse released its findings Thursday morning. This is the second year the survey studied the abuse of legal drugs, and the first year it looked into the use of over-the counter products to get high. The study showed an increasing trend among the nation's teenagers using prescription drugs, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, to get high. Partnership Chairman Roy Bostock summarizes the results as "the first time our national study finds that today's teens are more likely to have abused a prescription painkiller to get high than they are to have experimented with a variety of illegal drugs. Generation Rx has arrived."

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is a non-profit organization launched in 1987 that employs communications professionals for the aim of reducing American demand for illegal drugs in today's prohibition control strategy. The group often collaborates with the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. The results presented were from the 2004 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study that surveyed the nation's largest sample size ever in terms of ongoing analysis of teen drug-related attitudes: more than 7,300 teens. Studies pertaining to drugs are often flawed because of their use of a self-reporting methodology. It is very easy for participants in a non-scientific study — especially teenagers — to under, over, or misreport their data. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percent.

The study reported that about one in five teenagers has abused a prescription painkiller — more than those who have experimented with either ecstasy, cocaine, crack or LSD. The most popular prescription drug abused by teens was Vicodin, with 18 percent (about 4.3 million youths) reporting. OxyContin, as well as drugs for attention-deficit disorder like Ritalin or Adderall, came in second place with 10 percent. One in eleven teens (2.2 million) had abused over-the-counter products such as cough medicine. Fewer than half the teens in the study (48 percent) believed experimenting with prescription drugs was a "great risk." Additionally, many teens chose to use legal drugs because of "ease of access."

The number of teens reporting marijuana use declined to 37 percent last year, compared with 42 percent six years earlier. Over the same amount of time, ecstasy use declined from 12 percent to 9 percent, and methamphetamine use dropped from 12 percent to 8 percent.