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Wake-Up Call for Parents: One in Four Teens Has Abused Prescription Meds

New survey results released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org find  that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once  – a 33 percent increase over the last five years.

The study is actually the 24th annual survey used by the organization to track and research drug use in this country. The survey involved 3,884 teens in grades 9 through 12 along with 817 parents. The margin of error for teen responses was 2.1 percent and the margin for parents was 3.4 percent.

The study suggests that many parents are blind to the immediacy of the issue of prescription drug abuse. This is not a problem that parents view as liable to occur in their home. In some cases, parents themselves are not fully aware of the risks of prescription drug abuse.

Parents are talking with kids about the evils of drug abuse. More than 80 percent had talked with their children about the dangers of marijuana and a similar number had discussed with them the risks of alcohol. Few had felt a pressing need to warn their teens away from prescription drugs.

Part of the problem seems to be that parents are not fully aware of the dangers posed by prescription drugs. While one-third of the moms and dads had talked with their children about staying away from illegal street drugs like cocaine or crack, few had given similar warnings about prescription medications. In fact, one out of six parents reported thinking that prescription medications are safer than street drugs. Another one-third said they believed that kids without attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) who took the stimulants used to treat the condition could improve their test scores.

Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are common ADHD medications. They are also popularly abused prescription drugs. One in eight teens surveyed said that her or she had abused one of these drugs even though they did not have ADHD .

The bottom line for parents is that it is important to talk with kids early. Around 20 percent of the teens who admitted to prescription drug abuse said they had begun to do so before they turned 14. Parents also need to talk often. Parents have influence. They should use it and never assume their family is immune to the problem

Read the study here.

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