Federal data from a national survey of 8th, 10th and 12th graders show that prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the commonly abused illicit drugs by high school seniors, after marijuana.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health that supports the annual study, recently launched PEERx, a prescription drug abuse prevention campaign for teens. This national public awareness initiative provides educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the harmful effects that prescription drug abuse has on the brain and body.
Nearly 1 in 12 high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin; 1 in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin. The abuse of stimulants is also cause for alarm. For example, 8.2% of high school seniors reported past year use of Amphetamines in 2011, up from 6.6% in 2009.
Teens abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to self-medicate for pain, and because they think it will help them with school work. Teens often don't realize that prescription drugs can have dangerous short- and long-term health consequences when used inappropriately. For example, stimulant abuse can cause paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and an irregular heartbeat; opioid painkiller abuse can cause drowsiness and dangerously slowed breathing; and abusing depressants can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, and disorientation. Long-term abuse of prescription drugs can lead to dependence and addiction.
Resources To Help
The centerpiece of PEERx is Choose Your Path, a unique video activity that allows teens to assume the role of the main character, select which path to take at certain points in the story, and then watch the consequences of their decisions unfold onscreen. Other free PEERx resources include:
- An Activity Guide with creative ideas and step-by-step instructions to help teens engage peers in their school or community
- Peer Into Your Path, a twist on Choose Your Path that invites teens to write their own stories, weaving in facts about the effects of prescription drugs
- Colorful downloads for t-shirts, posters, computer wallpaper, or stickers that help let everyone know how dangerous prescription drug abuse can be
- Fact sheets and posts from NIDA’s Sara Bellum Blog that bust the myths and misconceptions about prescription drug abuse
Teens from across the country helped inform the development of the PEERx resources.