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Teen Abuse of Prescription Drugs Rises

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Teen prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States according to one local group that’s working to combat the problem. As a result, a local coalition is doing its part to protect youth from abusing these drugs. KSMU’s Justin Lux has the story.

The Community Partnership of the Ozarks reports that one in five teens have abused prescription drugs in the past.

The Republic C-2000 team, an underage drinking and substance abuse prevention group is teaming up with the Community Partnership of the Ozarks to host a Prescription Medication "Take Back" Program this Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. The event will be held in the parking lot of the Walgreens located in Republic, on Highway 60 between Hines Street and Independence Street.

The Partnership’s Director of Community Prevention, Chris Davis, says that the accessibility of prescription drugs only heightens their appeal to teenagers.

“One of the primary reasons why it’s so prevalent among youth is that it’s very easy to get. Kids are getting it from the medicine cabinet at home, their friends' houses, grandparents' houses, things like that,” he says.

The event is an opportunity for individuals to dispose of medications that are no longer being used. It’s also a way to protect teens from prescription drug abuse.

All too often the drugs that teens acquire are medications that were prescribed to relieve pain or anxiety, something Davis says comforts the abusers.

“They think that it is not as dangerous or as deadly as some of those other drugs. Well, the reality is that it’s just as dangerous, just as deadly. People die from prescription drug overdose at an alarming rate. It’s one of the fastest growing overdose issues that we’re having,” says Davis.

One high school nurse here in southwest Missouri says she has seen a dramatic increase in the abuse of prescription drugs in the last two years. She also says that she has begun to see not just prescription drugs abused, but over the counter medications, such as cough syrup, abused as well.

The evidence is overwhelming. A 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey found that 63% of teens surveyed said that prescription drugs are easy to get from their home medicine cabinets and 56% of high school teens believe that prescription drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs.

For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.