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Painkiller Epidemic Doesn't Spare Teens

Nearly one in eight teens has taken painkillers not-as-prescribed—and they start early, researchers say.

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Many teens get the pills leftover from family
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By Valerie Tejeda

05/09/12

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As many as one in eight US teens has taken pain killers with out a prescription, and many abuse these drugs at a much younger age than previously thought, according to a new survey asking young people about their use of opioids (oxycontin, codeine, and other prescription painkillers). Of the 7,400 students surveyed, 13% admitted to using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons: either self-prescribing for pain, or to get high. "The non-medical use of controlled medications in (teens) has surpassed almost all illicit drugs except for marijuana," said Dr. Robert Fortuna, pediatrician from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "It's just an alarming trend." Many teens surveyed had been prescribed pills for pain management in the past, and were misusing leftover pills for recreation. Others may have been given the pills by friends or family members who had been prescribed the drugs. Many teens who had misused opioids said they began as early as 16 or 17 years old, which is younger than previous research stated; this data indicates that anti-drug programs may need to target kids at younger ages—beginning freshman or sophomore years of high school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 14,800 Americans died from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a rate which has tripled within 10 years.

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