A national study in the USA has found that one in four teens have misused or abused prescription medications at least once in their lifetime. This is an increase of 33% in the last five years alone.
The research, which was run with data from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study or PATS shows that 13% of teens report taking Ritalin or Adderall without a prescription.
“This data makes it very clear: the problem is real, the threat immediate and the situation is not poised to get better,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“Parents fear drugs like cocaine or heroin and want to protect their kids. But the truth is that when misused and abused, medicines — especially stimulants and opioids — can be every bit as dangerous and harmful as illicit street drugs.”
A big part of the problem may be caused by ill-informed parents. Research indicates that almost one third of parents believe prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin can help students study even if they are not prescribed and the child does not have ADHD.
Another problem is parents failing to teach their children about the dangers of abusing prescription medication. These parents often also have medicine cabinets full of unused or expired prescriptions which should have been properly disposed of.
“Medicine cabinets are the number one access point for teens who want to misuse and abuse prescription drugs. That’s why we are making a concerted effort to let parents and caregivers know how important it is to safely dispose of their unused, unwanted or expired medicines. Doing so can literally save a life,” said Marcia Lee Taylor of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
The data from PATS shots that 25% of teens report abusing prescriptions at some time in their life. That works out to about 5 million teens. Of these children, 20% abused medication before their 14th birthday.
Worse still, 27% of teens believes that using prescription medications to get high is safer than street drugs. While the prescription may be made in a more controlled environment, it still takes a doctor to understand all the possible reactions and complications a drug could have on an individual.
The good news is that experts say this problem is very easy to solve and some simple education could do a world of good. The PATS data also shows that the prescription abuse rate among teens may at least be slowing which could indicate more teens are already becoming aware of the dangers involved in prescription abuse.