Pubdate: Tue, 16 May 2006
Source: Journal News, The (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The Gannett Company, Inc.
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)
Bookmark: (Youth)


While teen smoking and drinking continue to drop, a survey to be 
released today indicates that teenage abuse of prescription drugs has 
become "an entrenched behavior" that many parents fail to recognize.

For a third straight year, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America 
study showed that about one in five teens have tried prescription 
drug painkillers like Vicodin or OxyContin to get high. It also 
indicated that many teens feel experimenting with prescription drugs 
is safer than illegal highs.

Forty percent said prescription medicines were "much safer" than 
illegal drugs, while 31 percent said there was "nothing wrong" with 
using prescription drugs "once in a while." The study further found 
that 29 percent of teens believe prescription pain relievers are non-addictive.

"It's really a case now of accepting the fact that it's here," Steve 
Pasierb, the partnership's president and CEO, said of the 
prescription drug numbers. "Clearly, this is a true problem in 
American society."

The trend is called "pharming" for pharmaceuticals and has resulted 
in several instances in which students in the Lower Hudson Valley became ill.

Two weeks ago, a Westchester County high school student was taken 
from her school cafeteria by ambulance after overdosing on a 
prescription medication, said Ellen Morehouse, the executive director 
of Student Assistance Services Corp., which provides substance abuse 
prevention services in 57 secondary schools in Westchester and Rockland.

"This is such a major problem here," Morehouse said.

She said students raid their parents' medicine chest for drugs and 
turn to the Internet to see what they're taking.

"Many times they try to heighten the effect with alcohol, marijuana 
or some of the other street drugs," she said. "And the use of the 
over-the-counters, combined with the prescription drugs, is very serious."

The survey by the partnership found that 62 percent of teens said 
prescription pain relievers are easy to find at home. And 52 percent 
say prescription pain relievers are "available everywhere."

A study by the University of Michigan, released in December, also 
indicated that American teens were smoking less and using 
prescription drugs more. It found one in 10 high school seniors had 
experimented with prescription painkillers.

The partnership survey was done last year of 7,300 students in grades 
7 through 12. It put teen smoking at 22 percent, down from 23 percent 
the year before and 42 percent in 1998. The number of teens drinking 
in the past 30 days was down from 33 percent in 2004 to 31 percent; 
in 1998, the figure was 42 percent.

Robert Anderson, the director of Daytop Westchester, an outpatient 
drug treatment program in Hartsdale, said alcohol and marijuana 
remained the primary drug that teens in the program were abusing. He 
said some also were using Vicodin, OxyContin or medication used to 
treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"I think the fact that it's in pill form they don't really 
acknowledge it sometimes as being a hard-core drug," he said.

Anderson blamed a society that is quick to take a pill to solve a problem.

"You turn on the average TV show and somewhere during the course of 
that TV show there's going to be a medication commercial and that 
sort of desensitizes them to the fact that it is a dangerous drug," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman