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In 2009, about 20% of high school students in the United States said they had taken a prescription drug—such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax—without a valid prescription from a physician. The prevalence of prescription drug abuse ranged from 26% among high school seniors, to 15% among freshmen. Reports of prevalence varied by ethnicity; 23% of Caucasian students, 17% of Hispanic students, and 12% of African-American students reported that they had taken a prescription drug recreationally.

These were the findings of a report, titled “2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YBRSS), which has monitored six categories of health-risk behavior among youth and young adults since 1991. The researchers reviewed national data and data from 42 YBRSS state surveys and surveys conducted from September 2008 through December 2009 with students in grades nine through twelve in 20 large urban school districts. The survey section about prescription drug abuse asked students if they had ever taken a prescription drug that had not been prescribed for them, and specifically named drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax.

The YBRSS report also included findings in each of the six monitored categories: behaviors that contribute to unintentional injury or violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and physical inactivity. The data are used to measure progress toward 15 national health objectives for Healthy People 2010 and on three of the 10 leading health indicators, to assess trends in priority health risk behaviors among high school students and to evaluate the impact of broad school and community interventions at the national, state, and local levels. Additional findings from the survey included:

  • Nationwide, during the 30 days before the survey, 9.7% of students had driven in a vehicle at least once after they had been drinking alcohol
  • Almost three-fourths (72.5%) of students had had at least one alcoholic beverage at least one day in their life, and in the 30 days before the survey, 41.8% of students had had at least one drink on one day
  • During the 30 days before the survey, 24.2% of student had had five or more drinks in a row, otherwise known as binge drinking, at least one day
  • In their life, 36.8% of students had used marijuana at least once, and in the 30 days before the survey, 20.8% of students had used marijuana at least once
  • In their life, 6.4% of students had used any form of cocaine at least once, and in the last 30 days, 2.8% of students had used a form of cocaine at least once
  • During their life, 11.7% of students had sniffed glue, breathed the contents of aerosol spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high at least once
  • In their life, 6.7% of students had used ecstasy at least once
  • During their life, 2.5% of students had used heroin at least once
  • During their life, 4.1% of students had used methamphetamines at least once
  • During their life, 2.1% of students had used a needle to inject any illegal drugs into their body at least once
  • During their life, 8% of students had used hallucinogenic drugs at least once
  • Nationwide, 21.1% of students had drunk alcohol for the first time before the age of 13 years
  • Nationwide, 7.5% of students had tried marijuana before the age of 13 years

A link to the full text of “2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey” may be found in The OPEN MINDS Circle Library at www.openminds.com/market-intelligence/resources/060310cscdcyrbss2009.htm.

For more information, contact: Danice K. Eaton, Ph.D., Corresponding Author, Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MS K-33, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30341; 770-488-6143; Fax: 770-488-6156; E-mail: dhe0@cdc.gov; Web site: www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.

20% of High School Students Have Taken Prescription Drugs Recreationally. (2010, September 13). OPEN MINDS Weekly News Wire.

© Copyright 2010, OPEN MINDS

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