Dramatic Decrease In Percentage Of Kentucky Teens Illegally Using Prescription Drugs

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Reported by: Tom Kenny
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Updated: 10/04/2013 7:57 pm
The percentage of Kentucky teens using prescription drugs for off-label purposes has dropped dramatically over the past four years, a new survey has found.

The 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) School Survey found that use of prescription drugs without a doctor’s specific direction to do so has decreased steadily among sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders  since 2004. 

The declines have been the most significant since 2008, when the Commonwealth intensified its efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.

“Education works,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “Our public health and law enforcement communities have worked tirelessly to educate the public about the dangers of using prescriptions outside of a doctor’s care. And this report shows that when people have the correct information, they make better choices.”

According to the survey, 9 percent of 12th-graders reported using prescription drugs without a doctor telling them to do so in 2012, down from 15.2 percent in 2008.  For 10th-graders, the percentage was 7.6 percent in 2012, versus 14.1 percent in 2008. 

Off-label use among younger students declined as well.  Among eighth-graders, usage dropped to 2.9 percent in 2012 compared to 6.5 percent in 2008.  And fewer than 1 percent of sixth-graders reported using the medications without a doctor’s direction in 2012, versus 2 percent who said they had in 2008.

“In the Attorney General’s Office, we launched an education campaign for Kentucky middle and high school students to educate them about the dangers of prescription drug abuse,” Attorney General Jack Conway said.  “To date, we’ve presented our message to more than 25,000 parents, teachers and students.  Our efforts, in conjunction with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, are paying dividends and saving lives.  I’m proud of our coordinated effort to protect Kentucky kids.”

“The perception of risk is always a key factor in the abuse of substances,” said Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.  “I believe Kentucky teens are now recognizing the risk of abusing prescription drugs.”

Additionally, the report found that nearly every other area surveyed – including alcohol, tobacco, Oxycontin, cocaine and hard drug usage – had declined between 2008 and 2012.

Marijuana usage, however, remained the same or ticked up slightly among teens during that same time period.

The KIP survey is implemented by the Division of Behavioral Health and measures drug use, school safety issues and gambling.  One hundred and fifty three out of 174 school districts participate in the survey. In 2012, 122,718 students participated.  

“This is really good news,” said Connie Smith, manager of the Substance Abuse Prevention Branch of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Over the last four years we have significantly stepped our efforts to address Prescription Drug Abuse.  All of our Regional Prevention Centers have been working very hard with their local coalitions to plan and implement effective programs to reduce illegal use of prescription drugs among youth. Through their efforts we have been able to install 42 additional permanent prescription drug drop boxes throughout the state.  They have also been instrumental in raising awareness about the dangers of prescription drugs and how to properly store and dispose of them.”

The full report can be viewed at http://reachevaluation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/KIP-2012-StatewideTrends-final.pdf.

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