DXM abuse down among high school seniors; overall Rx and Vicodin abuse up

WASHINGTON — Approximately 5.3% of high school seniors abused over-the-counter cough-cold medicines in the past month, according to the latest "Monitoring the Future" survey released Wednesday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That's down from 6.6% of high school seniors who claimed to have recently abused cough-cold medicines last year.

Following the release of the survey, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced the OTC industry would remain diligent in educating parents, school officials and teenagers around the dangers of abusing OTC medicines. "Teens turning to the medicine cabinet to get high remains a persistent and concerning behavior, and the leading makers of over-the-counter medicines will continue our many efforts to stop this behavior," the association said.

And while abuse of dextromethorphan appeared to be on a decline again (5.9% of seniors reported cough-cold medicine abuse in 2009), abuse of prescription drugs are on the rise. As many as 15.2% of teenage seniors abused a prescription medicine in 2011, up from 15.1% in 2010. The pain reliever Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone) and the ADHD treatment Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine), were the two most-abused prescription medicines, with rates of 8.1% (up from 8% in 2010) and 6.5% (flat as compared with 2010), respectively.

"To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website," stated NIDA director Nora Volkow. "Teens can go to our PEERx pages to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA's teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or email."

Cigarette and alcohol use by 12th graders were at their lowest point since 1975, when the National Institute on Drug Abuse first conducted the "Monitoring the Future" survey. The 2011 results found that 18.7% of 12th graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use, compared with a peak rate of 36.5% in 1997 and 21.6% five years ago. "While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline," stated Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health. "The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties."

Overall, 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey.

For a PDF of the raw survey, click here.

For an NIDA audio presentation of the survey results, click here.

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