Pubdate: Mon, 22 Dec 2008
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Note: Story by The Los Angeles Times. Additional information from
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Abuse of prescription drugs continues to be a major problem among 
teenagers, although fewer are smoking cigarettes, the 2008 Monitoring 
the Future survey reported last week.

The survey, conducted for 33 years, found that nearly 10 percent of 
high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin and 4.7 
percent reported abusing OxyContin. Both are strong opioid pain 
pills. Seven of the top 10 drugs abused by high school seniors were 
prescription or over-the-counter medications. "While the long-term 
general decline is encouraging, especially for cigarettes and 
alcohol, some of the other findings this year amplify our concerns 
for potential problems in the future -- especially the nonmedical use 
of prescription drugs," said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds the study. Monitoring the Future 
is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.

The survey found marijuana use has leveled off after a decade-long 
decline. Cigarette smoking is at its lowest point since the survey 
began -- though more than 1 in 10 high school seniors say they smoke 
daily and 5.4 percent smoke more than a half a pack a day.

The following is a look at some of the drugs declining and increasing in use:

Drugs declining in use

The drugs most responsible for this year's modest declines in illicit 
drug use other than marijuana are the various stimulants, including 
amphetamines, Ritalin (a specific amphetamine), methamphetamine, 
crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack.

Amphetamine use reached its recent peak in the mid-1990s among 8th 
and 10th graders. Since then, annual prevalence has fallen by more 
than one half among eighth graders to 4.5 percent in 2008 and 
bynearly half among 10th graders to 6.4 percent. Amphetamine use 
peaked somewhat later among 12th-graders, and has fallen by about 
four tenths since, to 6.8 percent in 2008. The declines continued in 
the upper grades this year, the one-year decline at 10th grade being 
statistically significant.

Ritalin is a prescription amphetamine drug that is used to treat 
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its use outside of 
medical supervision was first measured in the study in 2001; such use 
has been falling since then, with total declines of one third or more 
at each grade level.

Today, between 1.6 percent and 3.4 percent of students in these 
grades have abused Ritalin in the prior 12 months, with gradual 
(nonsignificant) declines continuing this year at grades 8 and 12.

Methamphetamine, often called "meth," has been in decline since its 
use was first measured in 1999. Annual prevalence is now down by 
about two thirds in all three grades from what it was in 1999.

Cocaine use reached a recent peak among teens in the late 1990s, 
declined for a year or two, and then held relatively steady for some 
years. However, in 2008, it showed some further decline in all three 
grades, though none of those changes reached statistical 
significance. Today's annual prevalence rates of 1.8 percent, 3 
percent, and 4.4 percent in grades 8, 10, and 12, respectively, are 
down between 30 percent and 40 percent from the peaks reached in the 
late 1990s.

Crack use, which also reached its recent peak in the late 1990s, 
previously declined some in all three grades, but showed no further 
decline last year. However, annual prevalence fell this year in 
grades 8 and 12, significantly so at 12th grade. It now ranges 
between 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent across the three grades; these 
rates are down by between 40 and 50 percent from what they were at 
their recent peaks.

Drugs increasing use

While most of the illicit drugs have shown considerable declines in 
use over the past decade or so, most prescription drugs haven't. In 
fact, a number of them showed steady growth in use outside of their 
legitimate medical use through most of the 1990s. These include 
sedatives, tranquilizers, andnarcotic drugs other than heroin (most 
of which are analgesics). As a result, they have become a relatively 
more important part of the nation's drug abuse problem. Fortunately, 
over the past few years, most of them have shown signs of leveling or 
even of beginning a gradual decline.

Sedative use, reported only for 12th grade, did not hit its recent 
peak until 2005, when annual prevalence reached 7.2 percent. Today, 
use is down only modestly to 5.8 percent with a drop of just 0.4 
percent in 2008.

Tranquilizer use made a real comeback in the early 1990s, and 
increases continued into 2001 or 2002 in all grades. Since then there 
has been a gradual decline in use in all three grades, including a 
small further decline this year in 10th grade, but the rates are 
still not far from the recent peaks. Annual prevalence ranges from 
2.4 percent in 8th grade to 6.2 percent in 12th grade.

OxyContin use was first measured in 2002. The 2008 figures for all 
three grades are not much different from what they were in 2002, 
standing at 2.1 percent, 3.6 percent, and 4.7 percent in grades 8, 
10, and 12, respectively.

Vicodin also was measured for the first time in 2002. Annual 
prevalence rates are close to their recent peak levels: 2.9 percent, 
6.7 percent, and 9.7 percent in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades, 
respectively, in 2008.

Marijuana use has generally been in a gradual and steady decline 
since 1996 in the case of 8th graders, and since about 2001 in the 
upper grades. However, the results of the 2008 survey suggest that 
this pattern of steady decline may be ending. The eighth and 12th 
grades showed modest increases of 0.6 and 0.7 percentage points, 
respectively, this year--the second year that 12th-grade use did not decline.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom