Painkiller abuse in teens rising

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: March 12th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Call them Generation Rx.

That’s the nickname researchers have given to today’s teenagers, who are abusing prescription painkillers in record numbers.

The 2008 Monitor the Future survey, conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, surveyed eighth-, tenth- and twelfth-graders about their habits regarding drugs and alcohol. This is the study’s thirty-fourth year.

The survey found that prescription narcotics are the drugs of choice for many teenagers. Nearly ten percent of high school seniors reported using Vicodin for non-medical purposes in the year before the study. Nearly five percent admitted they abused Oxycontin.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that these high numbers have remained relatively unchanged over the past six years. Meanwhile, the abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medications varied by age. Their use remained high among tenth-graders but fell in the other age groups.

The news wasn’t entirely bad. The survey found that the use of stimulants such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, crystal meth, cocaine and crack continued to decline. Also, cigarette smoking is at its lowest point since the survey began in 1975.

While teen alcohol use has declined since the 1990s, it still remains fairly high. Eighth- and twelfth-graders who reported drinking remained steady at about thirty-two and sixty-six percent, respectively. Among tenth-graders, it dropped about four percent, to fifty-two percent.

What’s the solution? More education, researchers say. Also, parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their teenagers, especially about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.