National Study: Teen Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs Up 33 Percent Since 2008
New, nationally projectable survey results released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation confirmed that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, a 33 percent increase over the past five years. The Partnership Attitude Tracking 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. The new PATS data confirm that misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is now a normalized behavior among teens:
- 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 teens 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.” Teens are more likely to use prescription drugs if they believe that their parents are more lenient toward prescription drug misuse or abuse compared to illegal drug abuse, and if their parents use drugs themselves.
- One in five parents (20 percent) report that they have given their teen a prescription drug that was not prescribed for them.
The PATS survey also found that 17 percent of parents do not throw away expired medications, and 14 percent of parents say that they themselves have misused or abused prescription drugs within the past year.
“Parents need to be very clear in the messages they send their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription medications,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “It is important for parents and caregivers to set a good example in their own families. This includes using their own medicines properly, safeguarding medications in their own homes and properly disposing of unused medicines so teens won’t have easy access to them.”
– Submitted by Kathy Graham Sullivan, RAYSAC Director