OxyContin, Vicodin Grow Popular as Teen Drug Use of Choice
A White House analysis on drug use by teenagers confirms what private anti-drug advocates have contended for years: Teens are using prescription drugs and over the counter cough and cold medications to escape parental and societal oppression.
The director of National Drug Control Policy John Walters reported that teens are turning away from street drugs (cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth,) but in order to get high there are plenty of legal chemicals available children can use.
Prescription drugs are the second most commonly used stimulant behind marijuana. "Teens and Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Recent Trends on the Emerging Drug Threat," released 14 February 2007 by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) shows that the majority of teens, who use prescription and over the counter medicines, are getting them easily and for free. What is typical of federal research however -- the reasons why teenagers seek living on a high remain unknown.
"Parents need to know that teens are turning away from street drugs and increasingly abusing prescription drugs to get high. They should also be aware that suppliers of these drugs might not be sinister characters on the street corner, but are more likely close friends or relatives," said Walters. "Too many young people see popping pills as a painless high."
Youngsters in New York City in particular were found to be intentionally abusing prescription drugs to get high, "wrongly believing that they are safer than street drugs. In addition, teens are getting prescription drugs for free and have easy access to them - taking them from friends or relatives without their knowledge," the report concluded.
While the Office of National Drug Control Policy did not conclude the reasons why New York City youths were more prone to prescription drug abuse, one must turn the clock back to the months following 11 September 2001 to understand why. In the year after terrorist attacks in New York, prescription drugs (anti-depressants and sleeping aids) skyrocketed in Manhattan, as doctors and psychiatrists prescribed medications to patients for emotional relief following the attacks. Experimentation with prescription drugs followed in 2003 as reported by New York Magazine that year when it emerged the social set found it cool to experiment and work up one's immunity to stronger prescription drugs.
The evolution resulted in, now according to the report, widespread use and abuse of OxyContin (a euphoric pain reliever,) and pain reliever Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone.) The study found that prescription drugs were the choice of those ages 12 and 13 years old, and girls were more likely to intentionally abuse. Nearly one in six reported that a relative or friend gave these drugs freely to them, 10 percent stole the drugs, and another 10 percent bought the drugs.
"The explosion in the prescription of addictive opioids, depressants and stimulants has, for many children, made their parents' medicine cabinet a greater temptation and threat than a street drug dealer," said Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. "The world of children and teens is awash in prescription drugs and some parents can become inadvertent drug pushers by leaving their prescription opioids, stimulants and depressants in places where their kids can get them."
Prescription drug advertising, which is one of Madison Avenue's top revenue producers, on television, radio, and in print, by default teach children that prescription drugs are safe to use. More than one third of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer to use than illegal drugs, because they are prescribed by a doctor, according to teens who responded to surveys on prescription drugs. The study concluded that 7 million teens at present strongly believe there is nothing wrong with prescription drugs when taken once and while for fun.
Editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine Ann Shoket said, "Teens are trying to discover who they are and find where they fit in, which can make them vulnerable to peer pressure, including abusing prescription drugs." For the magazine's March 2007 issue Shoket said the editorial content reports more than one third of teens say they feel some pressure to abuse prescription drugs, and 9 percent said that by using prescription drugs to get high -- they fit in with friends.
Parents should keep track of prescription drugs in the home and speak with children about use of medication. Outdated and unused prescription medications should be tossed, and observe children for symptoms of drug use.