There's some very good news in the battle against illicit drugs:
Use by America's teens has dropped more than 23 percent during the
last five years.
But their abuse of medicines, both over-the-counter and
prescription, is rising.
These opposing trends - detailed in a survey of teens released
Thursday - reflect the complexity of the US drug scene. They also
present a new set of challenges. The most important: How to apply
the prevention tools that have apparently succeeded in combating
illegal drug use to fight the abuse of legal medicines.
Experts credit campaigns focusing on parental involvement and the
dangers of abuse for the significant declines in not only drugs like
marijuana, but alcohol and cigarettes as well.
The newly released Monitoring the Future study, which experts
consider to be one of the most definitive in the US, is done by the
University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug
Abuse. It found that teen use of marijuana - their most common drug -
declined from 35 percent in 2001 to 29 percent in 2006.
"The broad nature of these declines across multiple drugs and
alcohol and cigarettes ... is a kind of youth movement for the
good," says John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy
at the press conference in Washington. "This shows us that we can as
a society push back and make a difference. When we do that
effectively together it has enormous beneficial consequences not
only for our children now, but for the rest of their lives."
Studies consistently show that if people don't start using drugs
during their teen years, it is very unlike that they will develop
drug problems later in life. That means there will be "less
addiction, less suffering, less crime, lower health costs, and
higher achievement for this upcoming generation of Americans," Mr.
At the same time Walters trumpeted success, he warned that the
increase in the abuse of medicines has to be addressed now, if the
positive trends are to continue.
Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors used the narcotic painkiller
Vicodin without a prescription and nearly 1 in 20 used the
painkiller Oxycontin, according to the Monitoring the Future study.
The findings were backed by recent studies done by the
Partnership for a Drug-Free America in New York. Those studies found
1 in 5 teens, ages 12 to 17, report intentionally abusing a
prescription drug. As many as 1 in 10 intentionally abused over-the-
counter drugs, like cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan.
Focus groups done by the Partnership found that kids think these
drugs are either safe, or at least safer, because they're legal. …