(MintPress) – More young people are abusing prescription drugs than ever before, according to a study by the University of Colorado Denver.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, indicates that young people are abusing prescription drugs at a rate 40 percent higher than their older generation.
The increase rate of use directly correlates with overdose rates, creating a dangerous — and new — epidemic among adolescents. Between 2004 and 2007, emergency room visits related to prescription drug abuse increased by 129 percent. Death caused by prescription overdose tripled between the 1990s and 2007.
“The increasing availability of analgesics in the general population is well documented, as the total number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the U.S. increased more than fourfold from about 40 million in 1991 to nearly 180 million in 2007,” the study indicates.
Most of the prescription drugs used were received through family and friends.
The study compiled statistics from 1985 to 2009, concluding that a main problem in the rise in drug abuse is an increased rate of prescribed prescription drugs. The rise in availability among the general public has created a vulnerability to abuse.
The nature of the drug also plays a factor. Considering the source of such prescriptions are medical professionals, the study asserts that children and adolescents have a false sense of safety when taking the drugs out-of-turn.
“While most people recognize the dangers of leaving a loaded gun lying around the house, what a few people realize is that far more people die as a result of unsecured prescription medications,” said Richard Miech, PH.D., professor of sociology at Colorado University Denver and author of the study.
It’s an issue that is permeating the world of young adults, but it certainly isn’t limited to that population. The number of Americans of all ages seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse increased 500 percent between 1997 and 2007.
Miech also asserts that there’s little evidence to show any improvements in the numbers, calling into question the national response to the epidemic. At the same time, he points to the low “social cost” to abusing prescription drugs.
“These results suggest that current policies and interventions are not effective enough to counter the factors that have increased nonmedical analgesic use among U.S. youth and the general population,” he said in a press release. “But it is critical that we devise a strategy to deal with an epidemic that shows little sign of ebbing.”