Parents Underestimate Rx Drug Dangers

By Chrisanne Grise 04/23/13

Rx drug abuse is rising sharply among teens, but most parents only warn them about other drugs.

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Prescription drug abuse by teens is rising rapidly, but most parents still see the drugs as less dangerous than marijuana or alcohol, according to a new study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org. In a survey of 3,884 high schoolers, one in four teens said they have misused or abused a prescription drug at least once—a 33% increase in the last five years. And one in eight kids reported abusing Ritalin or Adderall. But while 81% said they had discussed the risks of marijuana and alcohol use with their parents, only 14% had talked about abuse of prescription drugs. One-third said their parents had spoken to them about the dangers of crack and cocaine.

Parents were surveyed as well, and one in six said they thought prescription drugs were safer than street drugs, which is why they'd chosen not to discuss them with their kids. "For parents, it really comes down to not using the power they have because they don't think this is an immediate problem, meaning their own home, own neighborhood kind of thing," says Steve Pasierb, president of the partnership. "They believe that this is probably a safer way, not as bad as illegal street drugs." In fact, almost a third of the parents believe medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can improve a teen’s academic ability—even if the student does not have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Experts say the most important thing for parents to do is talk early and often with their children about the dangers of all drugs, including prescriptions. Says Pasierb: "They need to tell their children that this isn't healthy for you and it will break my heart if you do this.”

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.

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