NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 2, 2007

Even as illegal drug use among teens and young adults has fallen in recent years, the abuse of prescription drugs has been rising.  And girls and young women, who have traditionally lagged behind their male peers in drug abuse, are taking the lead with prescription pills, says the Wall Street Journal.

According to John P. Walters, director of the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy:

  • A majority of teens who use illegal prescription drugs get them from friends and relatives, and one big factor contributing to the rise in use is the skyrocketing rate of prescriptions for commonly abused painkillers.
  • The volume of hydrocodone, the generic name for Vicodin, shipped to pharmacies was up 175 percent between 2000 and 2006.
  • Shipments of oxycodone, the non-extended-release form of OxyContin, were up 145 percent on the same basis.

As a result, some pharmaceutical companies have been criticized recently for aggressively marketing pain drugs.  But Walters says he doesn't connect industry practices with the rise in illegal prescription drug use among the young and he didn't see restrictions on companies as a solution.

Instead, Walters says teaching teenagers about the dangers and potency of some prescription drugs; encouraging parents to throw the drugs away once they're done with them and educating doctors about the drugs' potential for addiction is the best way to limit the abuse.

Source: "Drug Policy Chief: Prescription Drug Abuse Rising," Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2007.

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