Some of us may think of prescription drug abusers as being adults, but according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, teens are quickly becoming a large segment of this group. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that nearly 10 percent of teens who visited emergency rooms between September 2010 and September 2011 admitted to abusing prescription painkillers and sedatives in the past year.
"It's an increasing concern that youth are experimenting with [these drugs], which weren't available in previous generations," said Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, the study's lead author, in a published statement. "The information isn't getting through to providers that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and monitored, especially in our teen population."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently declared that prescription drug abuse is now at epidemic levels in the United States. According to the agency, emergency room visits resulting from these substances have doubled in the past five years and cost $72 billion in direct health care expenses.
While the University of Michigan team did not investigate the reasons why more teens are using prescription drugs, Cunningham speculated that their increased accessibility could be the root cause. She also noted that the results of the study were a conservative estimate of the teen prescription drug problem. Due to the fact that ERs mainly treat individuals without primary care providers, the actual number of teen abusers could be much higher.
The researchers also said that parents need to be more aware of where they leave their pills to prevent abuse from happening.