David Earl Johnson, LICSW

3 minute read

It would appear that one of the most abused drug among teenagers maybe available at home in the medicine chest. Prescription drugs were reported abused by a disturbingly high proportion of high school students. If I recall my numbers correctly, the usual proportion for life time alcohol abuse at about 60%, marijuana abuse in the 25% range, cocaine and sniffing glue around 10%. Nearly 12 high schoolers have abused prescription drugs and about half of them had given or sold the drugs to others. Ten percent to PARENTS! Remember the classic and coarse stand up comedy of George Carlin, and his 1970s diatribe on “DRUGS Store”? He observed that the young people’s preoccupation with getting high in the 60s and 70s were driven by the culture of pill popping parents who bought their drugs off the glitzy TV ads from pharmaceutical companies. I think his point is well demonstrated in the data in this survey.

“Rates of prescription use and misuse were high in this single-site survey. Several surveys have highlighted increases in the nonprescribed use of prescription drugs among adolescents. In the current study, researchers constructed a web-based survey with questions about four classes of drugs (stimulants, sedatives/anxiolytics, pain medications, and sleep aids). The participants were 1086 students from 7th through 12th grades from a single school district (age range, 11–17; 68% of eligible students). There were similar numbers of each sex and race (white and black). Thirty-six percent of respondents had at least one prescription from at least one drug class within the past year, and 49% had at least one during their lifetime. The most common class was opioid analgesia (past year, 33%; lifetime, 45%). Of the respondents, 24% gave away or loaned their medications; 10% acknowledged diverting drugs to parents, 8% to siblings, and 19% to friends. Teens were significantly more likely to divert drugs to same-sex friends than to opposite-sex friends. Of 390 students with past-year prescriptions, between 29% and 62% were asked to divert their medications.

Comment: The burgeoning problem of prescription medication diversion has been associated with high rates of illicit-substance use. The sobering data require both further research and development of preventive and interventional strategies, e.g., school-based health education. Whether nonprescribed diversion is related to the specialty of the prescribing physician and whether physicians discuss diversion with patients would be useful to know. An immediately useful approach for psychiatrists would be to inquire about all medications that other physicians have prescribed for their patients. — Barbara Geller, MD Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry April 30, 2007 Citation Boyd CJ et al. Prescription drug abuse and diversion among adolescents in a southeast Michigan school district. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2007 Mar; 161:276-81. [Medline® abstract]”

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