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More Teens Abusing Prescription Drugs

THURSDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- American teens are cutting back on their use of marijuana, but their abuse of prescription drugs in recent years has stayed the same or increased.

That's the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by White House drug czar John Walters.

From 2002 to 2005, rates of marijuana use declined from 30.1 percent to 25.8percent. Over that same period, the use of the prescription painkiller OxyContin increased from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent, and the use of Vicodin, another painkiller, increased from 6 percent to 6.3 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Teens are also abusing anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and stimulants like Adderall, Walters said. Overall, 2.1 million American teens abused prescription drugs in 2005.

Teens are abusing prescription drugs, because they believe they're safer than street drugs, and they're also easier to obtain, according to Walters. He said many teens get prescription drugs over the Internet, from friends, or steal them from household medicine cabinets, the AP reported.

"The drug dealer is us," Walters said, adding that adults need to keep track of prescription drugs and dispose of them properly when the drugs expire.

The report is based on the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey of 68,308 families, and the 2005 Monitoring the Future Survey of 50,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders conducted by the University of Michigan.

The findings mirror two studies released last week. The first found that, despite media reports of addicts getting prescription painkillers such as OxyContin from the Internet, most of them are actually getting these drugs from family, friends or dealers.

The second study, which looked at the abuse of these drugs in the general population, found that more teenagers are getting their hands on these powerful medications.

Dr. H. Westley Clark is director of the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). He said, "About 60 percent are getting their drugs from friends and family for free, while another 15 percent go and buy them from friends."

Clark was referring to numbers from SAMHSA's 2005 national survey of drug use, which also confirmed that opioid analgesic use is on the rise among teens. "So, in the case of a general population, drug dealers aren't the biggest problem either, although it's certainly no surprise that hard-core addicts are getting it that way," he said.

"Of course, we can anticipate the possibility of a growing Internet problem, particularly among young people, and we need to have some controls," Clark added. "Things change, so you can't lose vigilance. But we also do not want to exaggerate the magnitude of the current situation, and we certainly do not want to deny people with real health problems their medications."

More information
There's more on OxyContin abuse at the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration.
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