Youth Abuse of Painkillers Reaching "Epidemic" Proportions
University of Colorado Denver researchers are reporting in the Journal of Adolescent Health that adolescents are abusing prescription medications at a significantly higher rate than in any previous generation.
Kids are abusing oxycontin, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin and similar drugs at a rate that is 40 percent higher than it has ever been. In fact, prescription drugs are the second most commonly abused drugs by children after marijuana.
Said Richard Miech, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of sociology at CU Denver:
"Prescription drug use is the next big epidemic. Everyone in this field has recognized that there is a big increase in the abuse of nonmedical analgesics but our study shows that it is accelerating among today's generation of adolescents."
Miech et al used data dated between 1985 and 2009 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that kids are abusing painkillers and similar drugs at a clip that is "higher than any generation ever measured."
From the study:
"The increasing availability of analgesics in the general population is well documented, as the total number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the U.S. increased more than four-fold from about 40 million in 1991 to nearly 180 million in 2007. Higher prevalence of analgesics makes first-time NAU among contemporary youth easier than in the past because more homes have prescription analgesics in their medicine cabinets."
The most common source of these drugs for kids is from family—they can find them around the house—or from friends, and kids are often 'taught' that pills are the answer to any malady if they see that this is the way their parents respond. The study authors further report that there are more prescription drug overdoses each year than overdoses from cocaine and heroin combined.
"These results suggest that current policies and interventions are not yet effective enough to counter the factors that have increased nonmedical analgesic use among U.S. youth and the general population," concluded Miech.