The latest study, by a group called the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, has found that approximately one in five teenagers have tried to get high by using prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin which they often find in their parents' medicine cabinets.
This report, the 17th annual study on teen drug abuse by the group, found that more teens had abused prescription painkillers in 2004 than Ecstasy, cocaine, crack or LSD and one in 11 teens had abused over-the-counter products such as cough medicine.
Partnership Chairman Roy Bostock says this is the first time their national study has found that today's teens are more likely to have abused a prescription painkiller to get high than they are to have experimented with a variety of illegal drugs, and "Generation Rx has arrived.''
The most popular prescription drug abused by teens was Vicodin, with 18 percent, 4.3 million youths, reporting they had used it to get high. OxyContin and drugs used to treat attention-deficit disorder such as Ritalin and Adderall followed with one in 10 teens reporting they had tried them.
Only 48 percent, less than half the teens, said they saw ''great risk'' in experimenting with prescription medicines. The most cited factor in trying the medications was the easy access, and medicine cabinets at home or at friends' homes were the most common source.
This is the second year that the survey had studied abuse of legal drugs. In 2003, the Partnership grouped together three prescription pain relievers: Vicodin, OxyContin and Tylox, and found that 20 percent of teens had tried them.
The 2004 study looked at Vicodin and OxyContin separately but excluded Tylox, and found that 18 percent had tried Vicodin and 10 percent had used OxyContin. The 2004 figures indicated the same or a slight increase in use compared with 2003, said Barbara Delaney, director of research at the Partnership.
Nine percent of teens had experimented with cough syrup and other such products, the survey reported.