Teen Drug Abuse Rates Stay Steady
But Government Report Shows Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse
Sept. 6, 2007 -- Illegal drug use among U.S. teens didn't drop for the first
time since 2002, according to a government report released Thursday.
The report also showed a continuing rise in the use of prescription drugs
for recreational purposes, a trend that is alarming drug officials.
The report, released annually by the Bush administration, showed 9.8% of
American kids between 12 and 17 years of age used an illegal drug within a
month of being surveyed in 2006. The figure is unchanged from the same report
the year before, even though illegal drug use overall is down about 15% since
2002, according to the report.
Officials blamed the stagnation on rising abuse rates of painkillers and
other prescription drugs. Nearly 50 million Americans older than 12 years of
age acknowledged using prescription drugs for a nonmedical use, a large jump
from three years earlier.
Most abuse of prescription drugs involves narcotic painkillers like Vicodin
and OxyContin. In May, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma was fined $600
million after pleading guilty to concealing the addictive risks of the
But Bush administration officials said Thursday that most of the abused
supply of the drugs comes from leftover pills in unused prescriptions.
Terry Cline, PhD, chief of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Administration, said the agency is launching a campaign in pharmacies warning
patients to discard their unused pills.
"We’re going right to that point of purchase," he told
Overall drug use rates had fallen steadily before last year. But last year's
slowdown threatens to undermine President Bush's stated goals to cut drug abuse
by 25% by 2007.
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director John P. Walters
acknowledged Thursday that the targets may not be met by next year. Teens' use
of marijuana -- the most commonly used illegal drug -- dropped steadily between
2002 and 2005 but then held steady into 2006.
"I think [it] will depend on how well we do against pills," Walters
said, referring to prescription pain killers and other medical drugs.