Today's teens and young people are abusing prescription painkillers more than any other age group or any other youth in history. Availability of these drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets may be to blame, according to new research in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Prescription painkillers are the second most abused drugs by adolescents in the U.S., only behind marijuana, reports the study. In fact, use of prescription painkillers by teens between the ages of 12 and 17 has jumped 10-fold since the 1960s.
"I think many parents just don't realize how dangerous unsecured prescription drugs are to their children and their children's friends," said lead author Richard Miech, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado in Denver.
Researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 1985 to 2009 and analyzed the prevalence of nonmedical painkiller use for all age groups, genders and races. They found that for youth born between 1980 and 1994, the use of painkillers was 40 percent higher than any other age group and any youth that came before them. This trend was present for both genders and among Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.
"The fact that the trend is present across all racial and ethnic groups [just] highlights that this is a problem that affects everyone," Miech said.The study concluded that one cause of the epidemic is the increasing availability of prescription painkillers in medicine cabinets at home. The researchers say more intervention is needed to make parents aware of the problem.