The rate of prescription painkiller abuse among American youth is 40 percent higher than in previous generations, and it is now the second most common type of illegal drug use after marijuana, according to a new study.

The current generation's abuse of prescription pain medications such as vicodin, valium and oxycontin is "higher than any generation ever measured," study author Richard Miech, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Denver, said in a university news release.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 1985 to 2009, and found that prescription painkiller abuse led to:

• A 129 percent increase in emergency department visits between 2004 and 2009.
• A more than 500 percent increase in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to prescription opioids between 1997 and 2007.
• A threefold increase in accidental overdose deaths between the 1990s and 2007.

Many factors contribute to the increasing abuse of prescription painkillers by youth, including greater availability. For example, the number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the United States increased from about 40 million in 1991 to nearly 180 million in 2007, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/10/17/painkiller-abuse-by-kids-way-up-study-finds?vwo=ecfb2