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June 3rd, 2010
12:09 PM ET

CDC: 1 in 5 high schoolers abuse legal drugs

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

One in five U.S. high school students say they have ever taken a prescription drug such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a physician's prescription, a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

Twelfth-graders had the highest likelihood of prescription drug abuse, at 26 percent, and ninth-graders had the lowest, at 15 percent. There was also variation by race; white students most commonly reported abusing prescription drugs, at 23 percent, followed by Hispanic students at 17 percent and black students at 12 percent.

The survey, officially called the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, had never looked at prescription drug abuse among high school students before. It also examined other risk and nutrition-related behaviors.

The survey found that, among high school students, 72 percent had ever used alcohol. Marijuana use was reported among 37 percent of students. Data showed that 6.4 percent of students had ever used cocaine, 4.1 percent had ever used methamphetamine, and 6.7 percent had ever used ecstasy.

In terms of trends, fewer students reported drinking at least one soda per day than in 2007, and more said they ate fruit or drank 100 percent fruit juice two or more times a day. Fewer high school students said they engaged in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors such as not eating for 24 hours or more, taking diet pills or laxatives, and vomiting.

Learn more about the survey here.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. joann

    this drug isn't designed for a person who will ever not need it(clearly) so how are our childern able to get this drug! i do not understand why or how we got a legal synthetic herion on the market?i met a lady the other day who kicked cancers ass and now she has a new disease. do we (americians)really believe that the research wasn't done to create synthetic herion on purpose.they gave it cool names lie roxy and oxy.google banoxycotin and read the stories.we can't have a war on drugs when it's legal.what will history say about us.the person in the car next to you may be under the influence of oxy or roxy.(synthic herion)what will history say about all the great leaders we have had since 1995.

    June 3, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Pat

    Joann,

    Even though you make a lot of good points, these medicines have legitimate purposes other than being "synthetic heroin". The abuse problems can only be attributed to the parents/family members who neglect to dispose of the medication when they are done with prescribed use. Take a look at this:
    http://www.operationmedicinecabinetnj.com/

    It's a program run through the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, the DEA of NJ, and the NJ Office of the Attorney General designed to get rid of expired and unused prescription medication sitting around. It's programs like these that will help stop abuse.

    June 3, 2010 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ghjhj

    some people are in alot of physical pain, thats why oxycontin is legal

    June 3, 2010 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. joe

    Joann,

    You are uninformed much like every other american. First, heroin is a synthetic drug...which you make by acetylating morphine. Oxycodone has been around since 1916, and oxycontin and roxycontin are both just time released version of oxycodone. Get your facts straight, and America is seen as so stupid because of people like you.

    June 3, 2010 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nick

      Joe, there is no such thing as roxycontin..there is a roxicodone or a roxicet, however, those are instant relasase. sorry pal but you are wrong too

      September 2, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
  5. amit

    @joann

    Your argument and vision is so short-sighted! Drugs like oxycontin and vicodin (morphine-like synthetic heroin) provide relief and comfort to thousands of people every day suffering from debilitating pain. These drugs are only prescribed for pain in its highest degree to the likes of cancer patients, post-surgery patients, and those with serious bodily injury, among others.

    Clearly these drugs need stronger controls and more oversight, but the real problem does not lie with the government or the with the fact that these drugs exist. The real question is, "how are high-school students receiving these drugs?" And the surprising answer will be through their own home medicine cabinets.

    June 3, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Me

    What the hell is wrong with the media? Why is "abuse" always the preferred synonym for "use" or "misuse" when it comes to drugs, whether prescription or illicit?

    The question posed was whether they had "ever taken" a prescription drug without a physician's prescription. So, because a teenager does something once, he's automatically considered a "drug abuser"? Please.

    I recall my 17-year-old neighbour recently twisted his ankle and his family had some Percocet in the medicine cabinet. His mother gave him one to ease the pain, then bound up the ankle and sent him on his way, rather than going to the doctor to have him do exactly the same. He monitored swelling and level of discomfort, in case he required an X-ray for breakage, but the swelling passed within a day and he was fine.

    People CAN take responsibility for themselves.

    This boy has HAD a prescription drug without a prescription, but did not "abuse" the drug in the same way that a long-term heroin addict does.

    We should be VERY careful of the labels we choose. One CAN use an illicit substance without becoming an "addict" or a "junkie" or a raving and thieving "crack head". It irks me that as soon as someone tries a recreational substance, they're immediatley labelled a "drug abuser" or an "addict". "Wow, you smoked marijuana? You were an addict?" How pedestrian and provincial.

    Now we're going to do the same with people that use legal drugs as well?

    FARCE.

    June 4, 2010 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jack

    The "war on drugs" is the problem. The U.S. is no closer to winning it now than when it launched in the mid-80s...all that has changed is the amount of money we spend on it. The price tag gets bigger each year as we continue to lose ground in this "war." The American people and policy makers need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask what this country's relationship with drugs (or "insatiable need" as Hillary Clinton called it) really is. Legalization has been shunned in favor of maintaining some sort of moral status quo, but if we were to legalize only marijuana, for example, that would be a huge financial hit to the criminal element. Way more devastating than raiding one boat, or even a hundred...

    June 4, 2010 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Boo

    Surprised, not really, in college half my peers used adderall to gain an unfair advantage illegally on tests, work. I have ADD, so what, suck it up and learn to not learn on speed like the rest of us or be hooked for life whenever a challenge comes up. Way too many people give the i cant focus, give me drugs approach.

    June 4, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Logan

    Take it with a grain of salt. I remember taking a survey like this when I was in high school. Guess what happens when you ask a bunch of high school students to take a survey about drugs that interrupts their day? They check random boxes or the complete opposite of what the truth is. Trust me, at least 50% of people in my school did this. They are high school kids what do you expect.

    June 4, 2010 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sarah

    As a high school student myself, this is not so surprising. Although I am homeschooled, and don't do this stuff. There are so much pressures and not enough support, i.e. hours of homework each night, that the average high schooler needs an escape. It makes sense. It doesn't mean it's a good thing. This is a problem- good. That means that things can change

    June 4, 2010 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Alane

    Joann, I am with you, and have first hand experience. This is a devastating drug, trust me I know. And it does not have to be in your So called Medicine Cabinet. I know for a fact there is individuals in their 60"s supplementing their disability income by going to Pain Management and being prescribed these drugs, only to turn around and sell them to the young children. It is an epidemic, that is deadly. Not sure what the age of most of the people that post on here, but I do believe the survey of high school children is correct, or maybe even higher. Oxycontin was banned years ago, due to misuse and the Pharmaceutical company was able to market it again in the 90's, if you ask me it needs to be banned for good.

    June 6, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about elizabeth landau – cnn.com health writer/producer. Regards

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.