More Teens May Be Getting High off Prescription Drugs

A new survey suggests one in five high schoolers has abused prescription drugs.

ByABC News
June 3, 2010, 3:12 PM

June 3, 2010— -- One high school student in five has taken a prescription drug without a doctor's order, according to a nationwide survey.

Abuse of a prescription drug was most common among white students (23 percent), followed by Hispanics (17.2 percent) and blacks (11.8 percent), according to Danice Eaton of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health in Atlanta, Ga., and colleagues.

Improper use increased steadily from ninth grade (15.1 percent) to 12th grade (25.8 percent). Girls and boys were equally likely to abuse a prescription medication.

The findings, reported in a surveillance summary that accompanied the June 4 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, came from the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. That was the first year questions about prescription drug use were asked.

The findings of the suvey appear to differ, however, from those of another federally sponsored survey, Monitoring the Future, which reported in December that there has been no increase in most prescription drug abuse in 8th, 10th and 12th graders.

Meanwhile, though certain risky behaviors have decreased in recent years, the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that only two of 15 of the federal government's Healthy People 2010 goals have been reached -- reducing the number of students getting into physical fights to below 32 percent (31.5 percent in 2009) and reducing the number of students riding in a car with someone who had been drinking to below 30 percent (28.3 percent in 2009).

"More effective school health programs and other policy and programmatic interventions are needed to reduce risk and improve health outcomes among youth," Eaton and her colleagues wrote.

The national survey, conducted every two years, looks at six types of risk behaviors, those that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and physical inactivity.