Survey Finds Less Prescription Abuse Among Teens

Oct 5, 2013

A new study has found a dramatic drop in the number of teens abusing prescription drugs.

The Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal reported on results of the 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey which were released Friday.

It found that since 2008, prescription drug abuse dropped from 15.2 percent to 9 percent among high school seniors, 14.1 percent to 7.6 percent among sophomores and 6.5 percent to 2.9 percent among eighth graders.

The state Division of Behavioral Health implemented the survey at 153 of Kentucky's 174 public schools and had 122,718 students participate.

Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway credited the decrease to a new law cracking down on prescription pill abuse as well as efforts to educate youth about the dangers of abusing prescription medicines.

"Our efforts, in conjunction with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, are paying dividends and saving lives," Conway said.

"Education works," added Gov. Steve Beshear. "Our public health and law enforcement communities have worked tirelessly to educate the public. ... And this report shows that when people have the correct information, they make better choices."

Some expressed fear that a drop in prescription abuse would manifest itself elsewhere.

"The General Assembly has passed legislation to make it more difficult to access prescription drugs," said Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place recovery program in Louisville. "My concern is the unintended consequence is that people have switched to heroin. ... The problem is addiction, not the drug of the day."

While heroin use among teens wasn't specifically examined, responses indicated "hard drug" usage overall was declining.

Some said the survey gives them hope that teens are using less drugs.

John Marshall, assistant superintendent of diversity, equity and poverty for Jefferson County Public Schools, said he "has not noticed any trends in heroin use in JCPS," while disciplinary actions related to prescription drug use "keep declining minimally every year."