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20% of U.S. High Schoolers Abuse Prescription Drugs
Date:6/3/2010

That's more than use cocaine, methamphetamine or ecstasy, CDC report shows

THURSDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- One in five high school students in the United States has taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed for them, a new survey shows.

Conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the survey covers a variety of risky behaviors among American youth.

"We are very concerned that 20 percent of high school students are reporting this behavior," said survey author Danice K. Eaton, a research scientist at the CDC. "It can be dangerous to take a prescription drug that hasn't been prescribed to you."

Studies have shown that taking non-prescribed prescription drugs can lead to overdose, addiction and death, Eaton explained. "Taking a prescription drug that hasn't been prescribed to you is a health risk behavior," she said.

In the survey, 16,460 high school students were asked if they had ever taken prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax, without a doctor's prescription.

The abuse of prescription drugs was widest among whites at 23 percent, followed by Hispanics at 17 percent, and black students at 12 percent.

In addition, the abuse of prescription drugs was most common among 12th graders (26 percent) and lowest among ninth graders (15 percent), the researchers found. But, prescription drug abuse was the same for boys and girls, at 20 percent.

This is the first time a question about prescription drugs has been asked in the survey, Eaton said. The next survey will be in 2011, with the data being released in 2012. This will be the first opportunity to see trends in the abuse of prescription drugs, she noted.

In the meantime, the "awareness that there is such a high prevalence of prescription drug abuse among high school students is the main thing that we can emphasize from our data," Eaton said.
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