Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem and our teenagers are right in the middle of it. The government reports that more than three million teens have abused prescription drugs. The majority of the teens are getting them right out of their own medicine cabinets. Seven out of ten kids say that the first time they abused prescription drugs it was from their own home.
In an attempt to reduce the prescription drug availability to teenagers, the National Drug Enforcement Agency just held a national event on Saturday, September 25, 2010. National Take Back Day allowed citizens to safely dispose of unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs at over 4,000 sites across the country. This was a safe and anonymous way to clean up medicine cabinets and hopefully make it harder for teenagers to obtain pills. The DEA plans to incinerate the drugs later in the week. This nationwide event helps to bring awareness to this growing problem and educate parents and grandparents on the importance of not allowing teens access to their medications.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in addition to painkillers, teens are abusing stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall and depressants like Valium and Xanax. Sixty percent of the teens that are abusing prescription drugs do so before the age of 15.
Multiple national surveys point to not only the disturbing abuse of prescription drugs among teens, but also the alarming rise of over the counter medicines such as cough medicine. Six percent of high schoolers admit to having abused cough medicine containing dextromethorphan, or DXM, to get high in the past year. Thirty three percent of teens say they know someone who has abused cough medicine. The National Association of School Nurses has partnered with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association to provide school nurses and parents with tools to help address teen medicine abuse. They have created a program called “Smart Moves, Smart Choices.” This program will be aimed to educate middle and high school students about the serious risks of abusing prescription and over the counter medications.