Issue: July 2010
July 01, 2010
1 min read

CDC: One in five teens abusing prescription drugs

Issue: July 2010
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One in five high school students have taken a prescription drug without a physician’s prescription, according to the results of the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Prescription drug abuse was most common among white high school seniors (23%), followed by Hispanics (17%) and blacks (11.8%).

“We are concerned to learn that so many high school students are taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them,” Howell Wechsler, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, said in a press release.

The national survey polls high school students every 2 years and is intended to monitor health risk behaviors of America’s adolescents. The survey asks teens about unintentional injuries and violence, tobacco, alcohol, drug use, sexual behaviors, unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity. The prescription drug abuse question was a new addition to this year’s survey.

Survey researchers noted that improper use increased steadily from 9th grade (15.1%) to 12th grade (25.8%).

Seventy-two percent of the teens said they have used alcohol, 37% have used marijuana, 6.4% have used cocaine, 4.1% have used methamphetamine and 6.7% have used ecstasy.

However, those results are similar to the 2007 survey.

Survey researchers noted that two of 15 of the federal government’s Healthy People 2010 goals have been reached — reducing the number of students getting into physical fights to less than 32% and reducing the number of students riding in a car with someone who had been drinking to less than 30%.

On nutrition, the researchers noted that the number of students who drank soda in the previous week decreased from 34% in 2007 to 29.2% in 2009, and the number of students who ate fruit or drank 100% fruit juice at least twice a day increased from 30% in 2005 to 34% in 2009. About 80% of those students admitted they did not eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

The researchers noted that their findings were limited in that the amount of under- or over-reporting could not be determined.

CDC. MMWR. 2010;59:SS-5.