1 in 5 teens abusing pills: cause for celebration?

More than one in five teens who have been prescribed controlled medications like OxyContin end up misusing the drugs, and these kids are more likely than others to abuse other substances and to start giving or selling drugs to their peers, according to a new study on teens and controlled medications in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics.

Disturbingly, instead of focusing on the fact that 18 percent of the nearly 3,000 teen respondents said they had used at least one prescribed controlled medication during the past year, the lead author of the study said it was important to note that the majority of secondary school kids who are prescribed opioids and other controlled medications don’t abuse them, according to this article in HealthDay News. “The field doesn’t want to go back to having so much fear associated with these medications that we then underprescribe them,” said Sean Esteban McCabe, according to the article.

I get the whole glass-half-empty-or-glass-half-full thing when evaluating statistics. But this type of thinking is the result of the push in the late 1990s by organizations like the American Pain Society to convince U.S. doctors that they weren’t adequately treating pain and were under-prescribing opioid pain medications due to a misguided fear of causing addiction. (For a fantastic sum-up of the history of the pain management movement, visit Dr. Jana Burson’s pain pill addiction blog.)

The abandonment of caution in prescribing opioids is the very thing that got us into the mess we’re in now. Which is to say, we’re at the point where we think it’s a good thing that “only” one in five teens are getting high off Oxy.


Read more about prescription drug addiction among teens here.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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