Abuse of prescription drugs by teens on the rise

Generation Rx has arrived in Mohave County, and as a physician, it's important for me to communicate information about the alarming trend of prescription and over-the-counter medication abuse by teenagers.

Intentional abuse of prescription drugs among our teenagers has reached epidemic proportions. A 2006 school youth-use survey conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission showed that Mohave County has the highest rate of children abusing prescription drugs. The report showed that one out five of our students in grades 8-12 has abused a prescription drug. In fact, teenagers are more likely to abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs than a variety of illegal drugs like ecstasy, cocaine, crack and meth.

Teenagers abuse pain relievers more than any other prescription medicine. Mentions of these very powerful drugs as reasons for emergency room visits have nearly tripled over the recent decade. Some of the most widely abused narcotics by teenagers include Oxycontin, Percocet, Darvon and codeine.

The most startling fact leading to this generation's prescription-enriched culture is the misconception about its danger. Research from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that two in five teenagers believe prescription medications are much safer than illegal drugs, even if they are not specifically prescribed to them by their doctor.

We all know that prescription and OTC drugs are important and beneficial products that improve and save countless lives every year, but we must begin to educate ourselves and our children about the dangers of misusing medications and-over-the counter products. For more information on how to talk with your child, visit the Arizona Chapter of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's Web site at www.drugfree.org/az.

Dr. Alan Barton, M.D.

Colorado River Pediatrics