Carol Boyd: Currently, I have an RO1 that is funded by NIDA. We are in our last year and it is a mixed method study that was designed to examine the non-medical use and medical misuse of prescription medications by adolescents in the 7th to 12th grade.
We’ve actually found more than we thought we could ever possibly find, but I believe there is a couple of take home pieces. One is that adolescents that engage in what we are going to call prescription drug abuse are not a homogeneous group; they are actually a very, very diverse group. There are those that are engaging in the behavior with their own medication, sometimes to self-treat with that medication and other times to get high, or to experiment. And then we also have adolescents that are using somebody else’s prescription and they again are sometimes using to self-treat, they may have a migraine and they are using it, and, or they are using it to get high. So it is a very diverse group.
About one in five of our adolescents in any given year have a prescription, a legal prescription for one of these controlled medications. That is really high, that is one in five! And with the Z drugs like sleepers, Ambient and Lunesta, forty-four percent will engage in medical misuse with their own medication in that given year. Now contrast that with the opioid analgesics like Vicodin and OxyContin, and twenty-two percent of stimulants like Adderall, Concerta or Ritalin.
What we are finding out from our qualitative studies is that seventy-five percent of our adolescents who have a prescription for a controlled medication, it is stored in an unsafe place. It is stored where anybody can get access to it. And often they don’t even know it is illegal for them to share it with somebody else, and they don’t even know the name of it. And, when we ask our young people, what did they tell you about the medication you are taking, nobody told them anything. Anything. They don’t know it is addictive, they don’t know that they are not supposed to share it, they have no idea how to dispose of it and neither do their parents.
The fact that the public still doesn’t know what to do about it, I think contributes to this problem. And it contributes to this group that I am talking about that have their own prescription that are misusing it and, or are diverting it themselves.