Illegal drug use by U.S. teens has dropped more than 23 percent during the last five years, but their abuse of medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription, is rising, the Christian Science Monitor reports. A major challenge is how to apply prevention tools that may have succeeded in combating illegal drug use to fight the abuse of legal medicines. Experts credit campaigns focusing on parental involvement and the dangers of abuse for the significant declines in drugs like marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes.
The Monitoring the Future study is done by the University of Michigan, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It found that teen use of marijuana – their most common drug – dropped from 35 percent in 2001 to 29 percent in 2006. Studies show that if people don’t start using drugs during their teen years, it’s unlikely they will develop drug problems later. That means there will be “less addiction, less suffering, less crime, lower health costs, and higher achievement for this upcoming generation of Americans,” says White House drug czar John Walters. Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors used the narcotic painkiller Vicodin without a prescription and nearly 1 in 20 used the painkiller Oxycontin, the study said. David Rosenbloom of Join Together, a research and prevention organization, said, “The traditional prevention messages become somewhat confused because there are clearly some circumstances under which these medications are wonderful. So it’s got to be a much more nuanced message and as a practical mater, prevention curricula are still focused on alcohol and illicit drugs.”