Teens and Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Recent Trends on the Emerging Drug Threat (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Feb 26, 2009

Types of Prescription Drugs Abused by Teens

Pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin are the most commonly abused prescription drugs by teens.

Pain relievers are currently the most abused type of prescription drugs by 12-17-year-olds, followed by stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives. (NSDUH, 2006)

Past-year use of Vicodin is high among 8th, 10th and 12th graders, with nearly one in 10 high school seniors using it in the past year. (MTF, 2006)

On average, almost four percent (3.5%) of 8th- 12th graders reported using OxyContin, and six percent reported using Vicodin in the past year. (MTF, 2006)

In 2006, past-year abuse of OxyContin among 8th graders exactly doubled, increasing 100 percent over the last four years (from 1.3% in 2002 to 2.6% in 2006). In 10th graders, past-year abuse of OxyContin increased by 26 percent (from 3.0% in 2002, to 3.8% in 2006). (MTF, 2006)

Five of the top six drugs abused by 12th grad- ers in the past year were prescription drugs or cough and cold medicines. (MTF, 2006)

Four percent of 8th graders, five percent of 10th graders, and seven percent of 12th graders reported taking medicines with dextrometho- rphan (DXM) during the past year to get high. (MTF, 2006)

Almost two out of five teens reported having friends who abused prescription pain reliev- ers and nearly three out of 10 reported having friends who abused prescription stimulants in the past year. (PATS, 2006)

Dependence and Treatment

Adolescents are more likely than young adults to become dependent on prescription medication.

In 2004, more than 29 percent of teens in treatment were dependent on tranquilizers, sedatives, amphetamines and other stimulants. (TeDS, 2004)

More 12-17-year-olds than young adults (18- 25) (15.9% vs. 12.7%) became dependent on or abused prescription drugs in the past year. (SAMHSA, 2006)

Abusing prescription drugs for the first time before age 16 leads to a greater risk of dependence later in life. (SAMHSA, 2006)

In the past year, nearly half (48%) of all emer- gency department (eD) visits resulting from dextromethorphan abuse were patients 12-20 years old. (DAWN, 2006)

Appendix: Definitions

Prescription drugs that are most commonly abused include three classes: opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants.

  • Opioids are prescribed to alleviate pain. examples include oxycodone (OxyContin), propoxyphene (Darvon), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and meperidine (Demerol).
  • CNS depressants slow normal brain function and are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics. Tranquilizers and sedatives are examples of CNS depressants and include barbiturates (Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital), benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax) and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol).
  • Stimulants increase alertness, attention and energy, which are accompanied by increases in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Stimulants are prescribed to treat narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression that has not responded to other treatments. examples of prescription stimulants include amphetamines (Biphetamine, Dexedrine), cocaine (Cocaine Hydrochloride), methamphetamine (Desoxyn) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

Nonmedical use, misuse and abuse of prescription drugs are all defined here as use of prescription medications without medical supervision for the intentional purpose of getting high, or for some reason other than what the medication was intended.

Current use refers to use of prescription drugs during the month prior to the survey interview.

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