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Parents' Lax Attitudes May Be Partly to Blame for 33 Percent Rise in Teens' Prescription Drug Abuse

Update Date: Apr 23, 2013 01:47 PM EDT
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Most teenagers have had a talk with their parents about how bad drugs are for them. However, while 81 percent of teens have spoken to their parents about marijuana, relatively few teens have had a talk about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. That lack of communication has serious consequences; according to a study conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation, one in four teens report that they have abused or misused a prescription drug at least once during the course of their lifetime - an increase of 33 percent over just five years.

According to the Alaska Native News, the study found that one in eight teens have taken the stimulants Ritalin and Adderall when it was not prescribed to them; 25 percent of teens believe that these stimulants can be used as a study aid. Of the teenagers who said that they had misused or abused prescription drugs, an astounding 20 percent said that they had started before the age of 14. In total, 5 million teens have abused prescription drugs over the course of their lifetimes, while 1.9 million teens have reported that they have misused or abused Ritalin and Adderall within the past year. 1.3 million teens reported misusing or abusing the stimulants within the past month.

What accounts for this abuse and misuse? Over a quarter of teens, 27 percent, believed that it was safer to abuse prescription drugs than to do so with street drugs. In addition, 33 percent of teens reported that it was all right to use a prescription drug that was not prescribed to them in order to manage an illness, injury or physical pain.

In fact, according to the study, the kids' viewpoints are right in line with that of their parents. Nearly a third of parents - 29 percent - reported that stimulants could help students without ADHD perform better in school. In addition, 16 percent of parents believed that abusing prescription drugs was safer than abusing street drugs. As a result, while 81 percent of teens had discussed the consequences of marijuana with their parents, 80 percent of teens had done so with alcohol and 30 percent had discussed cocaine with their parents, only 16 percent had such a conversation with their parents over the abuse of prescription drugs.

Teens are most likely to access prescription drugs from their parents' medical cabinet, so researchers suggest that parents lock their cabinet. They also suggest that parents throw away expired medication and to never administer prescription drugs to their children that was not prescribed to them.

The study was conducted using a survey of 3,884 teenagers who were in grades nine through 12 between February and June 2012, according to the Associated Press. In addition, 817 parents were surveyed as well.

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