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Health & Parenting

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Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among Teens: Survey

More than 5 million, nearly 25 percent, said they had abused these medications


"Now, if cocaine or heroin use was going up the way prescription drug use is parents would certainly be freaking out," Pasierb added. "And they should be now, because prescription drug abuse is no better."

Among the findings: one-third of teens think there's nothing particularly wrong with the notion of using prescription medications that were never prescribed for them to tackle a specific injury or illness, with almost one-quarter believing that their parents are more concerned about street drug use than the misuse of prescription drugs.

Sixteen percent of parents also said they think prescription drugs are less dangerous than street drugs.

Perhaps this explains another survey finding: While about four in five teens said they had discussed both alcohol and marijuana use with their parents and almost one-third said they had talked with them about crack/cocaine, only between 14 percent and 16 percent said that the topic of painkiller/prescription drug abuse had ever come up.

This was true despite the fact that a parent's medicine cabinet is the repository for 56 percent of the prescription meds teens say they are abusing, the poll found, with nearly half of parents acknowledging that there are no barriers to access at home.

Indeed, 20 percent of parents actually admitted to willfully giving their teen a prescription med that they had on hand, for which their child had no prescription.

That said, Pasierb stressed that the goal of the survey was to draw needed attention to the misconceptions that are at the heart of a rapidly growing problem.

"We know that kids who start abusing when they are very young are much more likely to have an addiction problem as adults," he said. "So, parents need to intervene. They need to control supply and demand by locking up their medicine cabinets and throwing out old expired drugs. And they need to constantly weigh in, starting at very young age, even if they think they have the greatest kid in the world. They need to tell their child about the risks, and make clear how upset they will be if their child abuses these drugs."

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