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1 in 5 High Schoolers Abuse Prescription Drugs

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey monitors the health risk behaviors of children and young adults in the U.S.   The 2009 report was released this week and the results reveal interesting trends and at least one frightening new statistic.

The good news is that teens seem to be more health conscious than ever.  As compared to previous surveys, fewer reported drinking soda and more are eating fruit.  Extreme dieting tactics such as fasting, taking diet pills and laxatives as well as intentional vomiting are also on the wane.  However, while more kids may be getting wise to the benefits of healthy eating, many are doing something far worse than skipping meals.

For the first time ever, the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey included questions about prescription drugs and the responses show that they are popular with high school students. Overall, 1 in 5 say they have taken a prescription drug that was not prescribed for them.  These drugs include OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax.

Broken down by grade, prescription drug abuse is more prevalent in 12th graders, 26% of whom reported taking them for recreational purposes as compared to 15% of ninth graders.  When broken down by race, this type of drug abuse was found to be more common in white students (23%) than in Hispanic (17%) or black students (12%).

Because this is the first time prescription drug questions were included in the Survey, it is impossible to know if these numbers are going up or down.  However, a 2007 report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reported similar numbers and also revealed that many who abuse prescription drugs believe they are safer and less addictive than illegal substances.

The most important takeaway for a parent here is this statistic from the ONDCP report:  The majority of teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from their parents’ medicine cabinets.

Lock up your drugs and check out the ONDCP site for more facts and resources for parents and teens.

Image: theestherproject/Flickr

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