The 24th Annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation finds that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription (Rx) drug at least once in their lifetime – a 33 percent increase over the past five years. The study also found troubling data on teen misuse or abuse of prescription stimulants. One in eight teens (13 percent) now reports that they have taken the stimulants Ritalin or Adderall when it was not prescribed for them, at least once in their lifetime.
Contributing to this sustained trend in teen medicine abuse are the lax attitudes and beliefs of parents and caregivers. In fact, nearly one-third of parents say they believe Rx stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, normally prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can improve a teen’s academic performance even if the teen does not have ADHD. Parents are not effectively communicating the dangers of Rx medicine misuse and abuse to their kids, nor are they safeguarding their medications at home and disposing of unused medications properly.
Key findings regarding the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs:
• One in four teens (24 percent) reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime (up from 18 percent in 2008 to 24 percent in 2012), which translates to about 5 million teens. That is a 33 percent increase over a five-year period.
• Almost one in four teens (23 percent) say their parents don’t care as much if they are caught using Rx drugs without a doctor’s prescription, compared to getting caught with illegal drugs.
• Of those kids who said they abused Rx medications, one in five (20 percent) has done so before age 14.
• More than a quarter of teens (27 percent) mistakenly believe that misusing and abusing prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs.
• One-third of teens (33 percent) say they believe “it’s okay to use prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them to deal with an injury, illness or physical pain.”
“These data make 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 those illicit street drugs. Medicine abuse is one of the most significant and preventable adolescent health problems facing our families today.
Mixed Results on Teen Abuse of Other Substances:
• Cigarette smoking rates have remained stable, with 22 percent of teens reporting they’ve used cigarettes in the past month.
• Inhalant abuse also remained stable, with 7 percent of teens indicating they’ve abused inhalants over the past year.
• In 2012, almost half of teens (45 percent) have used marijuana in their lifetime, four in 10 (39 percent) have used in the past year and one in four (24 percent) have used within the past month.
• Currently, 57 percent of all teens have used alcohol within the past year (a 10 percent increase from 2008).
• Past-year abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse has remained relatively stable at 7 percent (since 2008).
• Methamphetamine use has remained stable, with 4 percent of teens reporting having abused methamphetamine in the past year (since 2008).
• Past-year cocaine use remains at 7 percent (unchanged since 2008).
• Lifetime steroid use is stable at 5 percent (unchanged since 2008).
• Past-year use of Ecstasy is at 8 percent, and has been steadily declining since a surge in prevalence during 2009.
• Past-year use of synthetic drugs is mixed as well, with 12 percent of teens using synthetic marijuana, 4 percent using salvia and 3 percent using bath salts.
Download the full report here.
Source: The Partnership at Drugfree.org
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