Varied Results in Progress on Fighting Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Results of the latest annual Monitoring the Future Survey show some positive trends, with abuse of certain prescription drugs by younger teens dropping slightly, but also show cause for continued concern regarding teen abuse of particular prescription drugs as well as synthetic cannabinoids. Nearly 47,000 8th, 10th, and 12th-graders participated in the Survey, released December 14, 2011, by the University of Michigan and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and results indicated that 2011 rates of 12th-grade students reporting non-medical use of any prescription drug remained stable compared with 2010 rates. Abuse rates of the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications Adderall® and Ritalin® by 12th-graders also remained stable, at 6.5% and 2.6% respectively, and no declines were seen for rates of OxyContin® abuse by teens. The Survey did however indicate a drop in abuse of Vicodin® among 8th and 10th-graders. The Survey report authors surmise that media stories and related efforts to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse dangers have had an impact among teens, possibly resulting in slightly lower rates of abuse. The Survey also shows that teens’ perceived availability of narcotics other than heroin, which would include prescription drugs such as Vicodin, has declined. A new question added to the Survey in 2011 revealed that 11.4% of high school seniors, or one in nine, had used a synthetic marijuana product in the past 12 months. The authors note that the students completed the Survey shortly after federal law classified synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I controlled substances, and that next year’s Survey may reveal the impact of the law on abuse rates.