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Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic Among Teenagers

An article in the July 7, 2005 Washington Post starts off by saying, "Abuse of prescription drugs is epidemic, with teenagers the fastest growing group of new abusers." They also note that this problem has drawn little attention from health and law enforcement agencies, physicians, pharmacists and parents.

The article reports on a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA) at Columbia University. The study reports that 15.1 million people are abusers of prescription drugs. To put this in perspective the article notes that this number exceeds the combined number of people abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin.

The study reports that of the total number abusing prescription drugs, 2.3 million are teenagers. They also note youngsters turn to prescription drugs at much higher rates than adults do. The story even notes that teens are having what is called "pharming parties", to share prescription drugs obtained at home or purchased on the Internet.

Joseph A. Califano Jr., the chairman of NCASA and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare stated, "Availability is the mother of abuse." He continued, "When I was young my parents would lock their liquor cabinet. It may be parents should be thinking of locking their medicine cabinets."

The number of abusers of medications was determined from a three-year study by the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which analyzed 15 national data sets . The study classified an abuser as anyone who reported using an unprescribed drug or one taken only for the feeling it caused.