Youth Use of Prescription Drugs Rises

Abuse of prescription drugs is rising among American youths even as use of other drugs seems to be leveling off or declining, according to the annual Monitoring the Future study.

The Associated Press reported Dec. 24 that 5.5 percent of high-school seniors reported illicit use of the prescription painkiller OxyContin in 2005, up from 4 percent in 2002, and 9.5 percent of seniors said they had used Vicodin recreationally. Such figures made prescription drugs the most popular intoxicants among teens after alcohol and marijuana.

Overall illicit drug use among teens continued a modest decline, with lifetime use falling from 21.5 percent in 2004 to 21.4 percent in 2005 among 8th-graders, from 39.8 percent to 38.2 percent among 10th-graders, and from 51.1 percent to 50.4 percent among 12th-graders.

The survey also showed that while overall youth smoking levels dropped to an all-time low, monthly smoking rose among 8th-graders for the first time since 1996. Marijuana use also declined marginally among 10th- and 12th-graders but rose among 8th-graders.