The 17th annual study on teen drug abuse, released Thursday morning, found that about one in five U.S. teenagers has abused a prescription painkiller — more than have experimented with either Ecstasy, cocaine, crack or LSD. One in 11 teens had abused over-the-counter products such as cough medicine, the study reported.
"The pain reliever number translates to about 4.3 million kids who have tried these products, outside of a doctor's recommendation, with the intention of getting high," Partnership for a Drug-Free America president Steve Pasierb told CBS radio affiliate WTOP.
"For the first time, our national study finds that today's teens are more likely to have abused a prescription painkiller to get high than they are to have experimented with a variety of illegal drugs," said Roy Bostock, the partnership's chairman.
According to the survey, the most popular prescription drug abused by teens was Vicodin, with 18 percent — or about 4.3 million youths — reporting they had used it to get high. OxyContin and drugs for attention-deficit disorder such as Ritalin/Adderall followed with one in 10 teens reporting they had tried them.
Fewer than half the teens — 48 percent — said they saw "great risk" in experimenting with prescription medicines. "Ease of access" was cited as a major factor in trying the medications.
"Access is one of the key issues, and access is in the parents' medicine cabinets, a friend's medicine cabinet, grandma, grandpa," said Pasierb. "These drugs are doing a lot of benefit in society, but what parents and folks to understand is they have to safeguard these drugs."