Prescription drug abuse is rampant among U.S. teens—and among the drugs they’re abusing most are Ritalin and Adderall, normally used for treating ADHD.
According to a national survey conducted in 2012 by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation, 24% of high-school students—approximately 5 million teens—have abused prescription medications. The figure represents a staggering 33% increase from the previous survey conducted in 2008. Of those who admitted using prescription medications without a prescription 20% claimed their first experience occurred before age 14.
Misinformation & Misperceptions
Experts speculate that the problem stems largely from misconceptions about the dangers associated with prescription drug misuse. The survey showed that 20% of teens who abused medications believed that prescription drugs were safer than “street drugs.”
An alarming number of parents surveyed shared this misperception, while nearly one-third also bought into the notion that Ritalin and Adderall improve school performance even if the child does not have ADHD.
In a recent HealthDay article about the survey results, Partnership president and CEO Steve Pasierb noted:
The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it. And it’s very important to note that, on this, kids and parents are in the same place. Kids say that they don’t think that their parents are going to be upset if they know about this, and parents are essentially saying the same thing. Now, if cocaine or heroin use was going up the way prescription drug use is parents would certainly be freaking out. And they should be now, because prescription drug abuse is no better.”
Addressing the Problem Begins At Home
Given that more than half the prescription medications that teens abuse come from their family’s medicine cabinet, the role of parents is clear: Says Pasierb, “Parents need to intervene. They need to control supply and demand by locking up their medicine cabinets and throwing out old expired drugs. And they need to constantly weight in, starting at a very young age…They need to tell their child about the risks, and make clear how upset they will be if their child abuses these drugs.”