Abuse of prescription drug increasing among teens

January 24, 2008 2:58:51 PM PST
It's one of the fastest growing problems- abuse of prescription drugs. The White House today released a new report with staggering numbers. Each year, more than two million teens abuse the drugs. Coincidentally-- the report comes just days after the death of Heath Ledger from what could be an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

Eyewitness News reporter Michelle Charlesworth is here now with more on the report. This new report -- just out -- represents a comprehensive look at people who are addicted to "legal" drugs.

And the word is getting out to parents that they might want to worry more about their medicine cabinet and less about the corner rug dealer.

Young people are especially vulnerable -- often "abusing" legal drugs -- and thinking "prescription" -- means safe.

Lunchroom talk has changed, so have drugs and the way we look at them. Now public service ads created just in time for the superbowl, are trying to keep up.

"It's designed to help reverse the alarming trends we have seen about the abuse of prescriptions drugs, particularly, among young people," said John Walters, US Drug Control Policy Director.

And so, Washington is paying attention releasing the results of a policy report that is scary.

In 2006 more than two million teens abused prescription drugs. And every day 2500 kids ages 12-17 try one for the first time.

"It was totally a shock," said Jason's mother, Linda Surks. "I had no clue, no idea that he was abusing."

But her 19-year-old son, Jason was abusing. And she worked on a national council to fight drug abuse. Yet, Jason died from a prescription drug overdose.

"It's easy to overdose on these drugs because they are very potent," said Dr. Herbert Kleber at Columbia University.

Even though drug companies advertise warnings about mixing or misuse, often they are ignored.

Unintentional drug poisoning deaths from sedatives, anti-depressants and pain killers jumped 84 percent between 1999 and 2004.

"We are certainly a society that feels that there is an answer for every problem," said Dr. Herbert Kleber. "And often that answer relies on a chemical."

Look for these public service ads on prescription drug abuse -- many of them starting to run on superbowl Sunday. They highlight a real danger and people are starting to talk about.