Hispanic Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse: A Worrying Trend

The number of Hispanic teens in the U.S. abusing prescription drugs is growing. Teens tend to abuse these drugs because they are easier to access than other substances and because they perceive them as being safer to abuse than illegal drugs. The major prescriptions of abuse among teens are narcotic painkillers and stimulants used to treat ADHD. Drug abuse during the teenage years puts young people at risk for a number of health, emotional and legal problems. Not least of these issues is addiction. Most addicts began abusing drugs at a young age.

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

The most recent Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan, shows that, overall, the number of teens abusing narcotic painkillers is decreasing. The rate of teens abusing ADHD stimulants is holding steady. This is good news for most teens, but Hispanic teens are telling a different story. Statistics collected by other studies have found that the number of Hispanic teens abusing prescriptions is extremely high. The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) found both troubling levels of prescription drug abuse among Hispanic teens and worrying misconceptions among their parents. The study found that Hispanic teens are more likely than their peers to abuse any kind of drug and that their abuse of prescription drugs has risen over the last few years. The percentage of Hispanic teens who have ever misused a prescription has risen from a low point of 17 percent a few years ago up to 30 percent. One in four Hispanic teens reports having misused a prescription drug in the last month, while one in seven has mixed prescription drug abuse with alcohol. Over-the-counter drugs are also an issue, with 10 percent of Hispanic teens having abused these cough and cold medications. This increased abuse of medications is putting teens at risk for a number of negative consequences. They report getting into trouble at school and with the law because of their drug abuse.

How Parents Can Make a Difference

Although the facts are worrying, it is important to know that parents can make a difference in the choices that teens make regarding substance abuse. Unfortunately the misperceptions of Hispanic parents are as worrying as their teens’ choices. The PATS research found that 28 percent of the parents of Hispanic teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer to abuse than illegal drugs. This is in huge contrast to the 6 percent of Caucasian parents with the same misconception. This dangerous misinformation and incorrect attitude toward prescription drug abuse could be a major factor in the rates of Hispanic teens abusing medications. What parents believe, what they say to their teens and what they don’t say all have a big effect on what their teens do and the choices they make. When parents are permissive about drug use, teens are more likely to experiment with drugs. The good news is that if parents can be educated and made more aware of the dangers of prescription drugs and the amount of influence they have over their teens, real changes could be made with respect to teen substance abuse. If you are the parent of a teen, talk to her about the risks of drug abuse, particularly the dangers of prescription drugs. Make it clear that misusing prescriptions is in no way acceptable and that you will not tolerate it. Having this talk could be the deciding factor when your teen is faced with the option to abuse prescription drugs.

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