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Statement of Steve Pasierb, President and CEO, Partnership for a Drug-Free America on New SAMHSA Study On Cough Medicine Abuse

NEW YORK, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) newly released data analysis from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicate 3.1 million people in the U. S. aged 12 to 25 have abused non-prescription, over-the- counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to get high at least once in their lifetime. This announcement and the data underscore a significant ongoing shift in teenage illicit drug use behavior. SAMHSA's announcement contains important information that American families need to hear and understand.

The Partnership identified the problem of intentional abuse of medicines in 2005 when the 18th annual teen installment of the national Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) showed that 1 in 5 teens (4.3 million) had intentionally abused a prescription painkiller and 1 in 11 (2.2 million) had abused cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan or DXM. In response to the findings, the Partnership and our program partners including the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) launched the first research-based education campaign addressing this disturbing consumer behavior of intentional abuse of medicines, labeled "Generation Rx" at the time.

The teen behavior of abusing medicines comes at a time of otherwise significant, sustained reductions in many forms of youth substance abuse. Recent studies from the Partnership, the renowned Monitoring the Future study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and others continue to mark steady declines at the national level in substances like marijuana and methamphetamine, but these promising findings continue to be overshadowed by an alarmingly high percentage of teens who choose to abuse medicines to get high.

"It is clear that the current youth drug culture is vastly different from when parents were teenagers themselves, and we are deeply concerned about the high rates of medicine abuse," said Pasierb. "While teens' use of street drugs is declining, there had been an increase in abuse of medicines they find right in their own home or a friend's home. Our research shows that far too many teens and parents share the perilous misperception that intentionally abusing medications is somehow safer than using illicit street drugs. That is simply not true."

In response to the problem of medicine abuse, the Partnership and many other program partners including the Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA) have launched the following:
-- Additional in-depth direct consumer research to identify the root cause

of why teens are abusing medicines intentionally to get high

-- A dedicated section on the Partnership's Web site focused on educating

against the abuse of cough and cold medicines containing DXM at:

-- Informative brochures available for free in English and Spanish at:

-- A national media-based education campaign featuring public service

messages designed to educate parents on the facts and risks their

children face from the intentional abuse of medicines at:

-- Testimonial videos of real-life teens sharing personal experiences of

cough medicine abuse at:,

-- A comprehensive micro site to intervene when

teens are actively searching for pro-cough and cold medicine abuse

information on the Web

-- Support of Senator Joseph Biden's Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act

to curb the alarming rise in medicine abuse, including teens' misuse of

cough and cold medicines containing DXM; support of congressional

legislation drafted by Congressman Fred Upton and Congressman Rick

Larsen to crack down on the bulk sale of unfinished DXM via the DXM

Distribution Act of 2007.

Parental Involvement is Key Factor in Safeguarding Teens

The NSDUH data should serve as a reminder to parents and caregivers that all teenagers -- regardless of who they are or where they live -- are subject to the lure of legal drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol. For this reason, the Partnership continues to focus its efforts on motivating, supporting and empowering parents with the resources and tools they need to help protect their children from drug abuse.

"The Partnership is poised to help parents understand the complexities of this new tier of substance abuse," Pasierb said. "We want to help them take action to protect their families with these three words: Educate, communicate and safeguard. Educate yourself about the medications kids are abusing. Communicate with your kids and dispel the notion -- for yourself as well as for your kids -- that these medicines can be safely abused. And safeguard your medications by learning which ones can be abused, limit access to them and keep track of the quantities you have in your home. Make sure your friends do the same."

Partnership Responds to Parents Who Say they Want More Help Talking With Kids

Because many parents say they have a difficult time talking with kids about drugs and alcohol, the Partnership launched a new nationwide parent movement called Time To Talk (TM), designed to encourage and empower parents and caregivers to have ongoing and frequent conversations with their teens and tweens about the risks of using drugs and alcohol.

"Communication between parents and kids is the most effective prevention tool when it comes to protecting your teen from abusing medications," said Pasierb. "Kids who report learning 'a lot' about the dangers of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use illicit drugs." provides parents helpful tips and tools to begin these conversations and the encouragement to help parents keep the dialogue going over the long haul. Parents and caregivers can sign up for free monthly newsletters and gain access to tools such as, Tips for Getting the Conversation Started, How to Help Your Kid Turn Down Drugs. The site also links to the Time To Talk Yahoo Group, an online parent forum that enables parents to share experiences and connect with others facing similar situations.

"In our previous research, teens reported that foremost among the reasons they don't use drugs is because they don't want to disappoint their parents," said Pasierb. We want to help parents and caregivers understand that they are a huge influence on the choices kids make for themselves and can give them access to the information, tools and resources to help parents make these conversations an ongoing part of their everyday lives. Educating youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol is an ongoing job; one that parents, caregivers, schools and members of the community must all do together."

---Steve Pasierb

SOURCE Partnership for a Drug-Free America
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