Twenty percent of high school students in the United States have taken a prescription drug, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a doctor’s prescription, according to the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This is the first year the survey assessed prescription drug abuse among high school students. The 2009 YRBS shows that many high school students engage in risk behaviors that are harmful to their overall health and increase their risk of disease and injury.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and YRBS’s recently released issue brief, “Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States” highlight a serious public health problem with non-medical use of prescription drugs. The issue brief points out that drug overdose rates have risen steadily in the United States since 1999, with most of the increase due to prescription drugs.
Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), estimate that in 2008 people 12-20 years old accounted for an estimated 141,417 (14.5 percent) of the 971,914 emergency department visits for nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. These numbers do not include suicide attempts.
“Our Nation faces many public health threats that deserve our immediate attention. Among them, there is the pressing reality of drug overdoses. Teens and others have a false assumption that prescription drugs are a safer high,” said Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH, Director of CDC’s Injury Center Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. “These data and that from other sources show us that prescription drug misuse is a significant problem in both adolescents and adults.”
The CDC recommendations in the issue brief are based on promising interventions and expert opinion to help health care providers, state and federal agencies, as well as private insurance providers and pharmacy benefit managers, to better understand the impact and cost of unintentional poisoning. CDC continues to respond to this problem through surveillance activities, epidemiologic research, and evaluation of interventions with the greatest promise of creating a public health impact.
Source: CDC, June 3, 2010