popping pills more than other drugs
Boca Raton News, January 9, 2006
Less smoke. More pills.
That's today's teen, according to a recent study.
And the average teen doesn't have to look any further than
The lure of the family medicine cabinet helped nearly one
in 10 high school seniors to try prescription painkillers
last year, the study said, even as the generation
continued turning away, at least slightly, from smoking
and many other drugs.
The decline in illicit drug use by teens was modest but
continued a trend, according to a US government annual
study of drug use by eighth-, tenth- and 12th-graders.
Teen cigarette smoking fell to its lowest level since the
survey began; eighth-graders showed the first increase
since a 1996 survey.
Dr. Sherrie Raz, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology believes
the statistics add up.
"I hear that that's what is going on," said Raz, who has a
private practice in Boca Raton.
Dr. John McCauley, who has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology,
said the problem stems from physicians over medicating
patients and a flood of prescription drug advertisements.
"Physicians are way over prescribing. You go in and have
an ache and they are willing to give Xanax and muscle
relaxers. Also, the pharmacy companies spend 3 billion a
year on advertising. We are inundated with solutions to
problems by using drugs," McCauley said. "It's become a
drug culture. If you have a problem, you take a pill.
Parents' medicine cabinets are filled with prescription
drugs. And it's a lot easier for teens to go into the
bathroom and open a medicine cabinet than to go out on the
street and buy dope."
Boca teen Alex Schosheim said he's seen drug use among
"Within the last four years I've been in high school, I've
seen the same steady use of drugs, smoking, alcohol and
pain killers. I haven't seen a change," Schosheim said.
"Freshman or sophomore year of high school teens may try a
sip of beer. But as kids get older, they may experiment
more. And that may turn to something such as Xanax or as
extreme as cocaine."
Schosheim, 17, thinks easy access plays a role in an
increased use of prescription pills.
"Anti-anxiety medications like Ritalin is prescribed a lot
to teens because ADD is diagnosed so much," Schosheim
Dr. Raz mirrors that response.
"It's highly accessible. All they have to do is go into
their mother's medicine cabinet and take them out," Raz
said. She has seen an increase in teen use of Xanax,
alcohol and Percocet.
Xanax, known to teens, as 'the Bar' is the most commonly
abused prescription drug, Dr. McCauley said. He said teens
are also mixing prescription drugs with other drugs and
alcohol, or a 'fruit cocktail'.
Dr. Raz said it is difficult to notice warning signs of
teen drug use. But she said parents should talk to
children about the negative affects.
"Children have a way of being able to disguise everything
they're doing today. But if you see a child slurring their
words, not looking right or acting differently, you have
to pursue it," Raz said.
Dr. McCauley believes most parents won't notice drug use
at home because there already is miscommunication. One
factor that plays a role is 'busy' parents.
"[These] parents aren't going to have a clue," he said.
Why don't teens stop using?
It's a dependency issue, Dr. Raz said.
"When a child has a serious problem they can't resolve,
they tend to turn towards the first thing that makes them
feel better. And [prescription drugs] are a quick fix,"
Schosheim believes teens are blinded to the effects.
"They think that they're not harming them as much because
it's a legally sold drug," he said. "They can't stop. Once
they start doing it, they don't see the side affects until
it's too late."
However, Dr. McCauley believes teen drug use stems from
"It's a family problem, not an adolescent problem. If
there is dysfunction within the family, the kid is
dysfunctional in some aspects," he said.
Raz said a lack of concentration could occur among teens
using prescription drugs. However, she said there are many
more adverse affects.
"It destroys brain cells. They are not able to function in
the real world and they lose relationships," Raz said.
A 2005 Monitoring the Future survey of nearly 50,000 teens
found that 21.4 percent of eighth-graders had used some
illicit drug in his or her lifetime, down from 21.5
percent a year earlier. For 10th-graders, it was 38.2
percent, down from 39.8 percent, and for 12th-graders it
was 50.4 percent, down from 51.1 percent.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the
University of Michigan released survey results last week.
Overall statistics show a very slight decline in illicit
drug use among teens, but the use of prescription drugs
like sedatives and the narcotic painkiller Oxycontin have
continued to increase.
In the survey category of narcotics other than heroin, the
use of such substances as prescription painkillers
steadily increased from 1992 to 2002 and there has been
little change since then. In a release from the University
of Michigan, one of the authors and lead researcher, Lloyd
Johnston said, "That makes this one of the few classes of
drugs in which we have not seen improvement, after a
substantial rise in use."
Sedative use also increased, including Valium, Xanax and
Librium. In 2005, nearly 8 percent of 12-grade students
reported using sedatives non-medically last year.
Nora B. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, called that continuing decline "quite remarkable
But, she said, abuse of prescription drugs by teens is a
Use of the painkiller OxyContin grew from 4 percent to 5.5
percent of high school seniors from 2002 to 2005, she
said, and their use of Vicodin has been consistently more
than 9 percent, clocking in at 9.5 percent in 2005.
Only marijuana topped prescription drugs in teen use, she
said, and that has been declining. For 2005, 44.8 percent
of 12th-graders said they had used marijuana, down 0.9
percentage points from 2004. The total was 34.1 percent
for 10th-graders, down 1 percentage point. The 16.5
percent among eighth-graders was up 0.2 percentage points,
ending a steady decline since 1996.
"The survey results expose the abysmal failure that is the
War on drugs," said Scarlett Swerdlow, executive director
of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Parents should take a more active role in informing teens
about negative affects of drug use, Raz believes.
"It's important from the beginning to have them learn
financial, emotional and educational responsibility and
have goals. Parents must talk to their kids and make sure
they know what they're doing," she said.
Nicol Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or