Pubdate: Fri, 22 Apr 2005
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2005 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Larry Mcshane, Associated Press


NEW YORK - About one in five teenagers have tried prescription painkillers 
such as Vicodin and OxyContin to get high, with the teens often raiding 
their parents' medicine cabinets, according to a study by the Partnership 
for a Drug-Free America.

The 17th annual study on teen drug abuse, released Thursday, found that 
more teens had abused a prescription painkiller in 2004 than Ecstasy, 
cocaine, crack or LSD. One in 11 teens had abused over-the-counter products 
such as cough medicine, the study reported.

"For the first time, our national study finds that today's teens are more 
likely to have abused a prescription painkiller to get high than they are 
to have experimented with a variety of illegal drugs," said Partnership 
Chairman Roy Bostock. "In other words, Generation Rx has arrived."

According to the study, the most popular prescription drug abused by teens 
was Vicodin, with 18 percent, or about 4.3 million youths, reporting they 
had used it to get high. OxyContin and drugs for attention-deficit disorder 
such as Ritalin/Adderall followed with one in 10 teens reporting they had 
tried them.

Fewer than half the teens, 48 percent, said they saw "great risk" in 
experimenting with prescription medicines. "Ease of access" was cited as a 
major factor in trying the medications, with medicine cabinets at home or 
at friends' homes a likely source, the survey found.

It was only the second year that the survey had studied abuse of legal 
drugs. In 2003, the Partnership grouped together three prescription pain 
relievers -- Vicodin, OxyContin and Tylox -- and found that 20 percent of 
teens had tried them.

The 2004 study looked at Vicodin and OxyContin separately but excluded 
Tylox, and found that 18 percent had tried Vicodin and 10 percent had used 
OxyContin. The 2004 figures indicated the same or a slight increase in use 
compared with 2003, said Barbara Delaney, director of research at the 

For the first time, the 2004 survey included a question about the use of 
over-the-counter products to get high. Nine percent, or about 2.2 million 
teens, had experimented with cough syrup and other such products, the 
survey reported.

It also found that the number of teens reporting marijuana use declined to 
37 percent last year, compared with 42 percent a half-dozen years earlier. 
Over the same amount of time, Ecstasy use declined from 12 percent to 9 
percent, while methamphetamine use dropped from 12 percent to 8 percent.

A University of Michigan study released in December also noted the apparent 
growing popularity of OxyContin among teens. Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, head 
of the Phoenix House drug treatment facility, said his agency has watched 
the use of painkillers by adolescents rise in recent years.

"Adolescents find the line between drugs that do good for you and drugs 
that make you feel good becoming fuzzier every year," said Rosenthal.

The 2004 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study surveyed more than 7,300 
teens, the largest ongoing analysis of teen drug-related attitudes toward 
drugs in the country. Its margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage 
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman