Study shows illicit drug use down, prescription drug use high among teens

WASHINGTON Results from the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey, announced Tuesday at a news conference held at the White House, determined that eighth graders have been less likely to smoke or use illicit drugs in the past year, mirroring a downward trend for all measured age groups in the last decade. However, prescription drug abuse remains high with virtually no significant drop in nonmedical use of most individual prescription drugs.

Vicodin remains one of the most commonly abused drugs among 12th graders—1 in 10 reported nonmedical use in the past year. The Monitoring the Future Survey traditionally measures misuse of a variety of different prescription drugs including opiates like Vicodin and oxyContin, amphetamines, including Ritalin, sedatives/barbiturates and tranquilizers, as well as over-the-counter drugs, such as cough syrup.

“This year’s survey has some good news for America’s parents, showing that the abuse of dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in cough medicine, among 8th, 10th and 12th graders has not grown,” offered Linda Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “According to the survey, 4, 5.4 and 5.8 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, respectively, reported abusing these OTC medicines to get high. While we are pleased that the cough medicine abuse did not increase among 8th and 10th graders, and actually decreased among 12th graders, our ultimate goal is that our efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of medicine abuse result in a decrease among all age groups,” she said.

“These results are evidence that the education efforts of many, including the leading makers of OTC cough medicines, are working at both the national and community levels, but there is still much work to be done,” Suydam added. “Substance abuse experts tell us, and we agree, that education is the most effective way to keep kids from abusing all types of substances, including over-the-counter medicines.”

For the first time this year, researchers pulled together data for all prescription drugs as a measurable group, and 15.4 percent of high school seniors reported nonmedical use of at least one of the aforementioned prescription medications within the past year.

The Monitoring the Future project—now in its 33rd year—is a series of independent surveys of 8th, 10th and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

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