TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An alarming survey reveals a dangerous trend among American teens. One out of five high school students admit to abusing prescription drugs. The survey found this risky behavior is most common among twelfth graders. 26% of them say they have used medication without a prescription. It is least common among ninth graders, as 15% admitted to abusing prescription drugs.
Medication like oxycontin, vicodin, ritalin, and adderall are kept in a locked cabinet inside the pharmacy.
"These are medications that have serious, serious abuse potential," said Rick Effinger, a pharmacist with Houston Street Pharmacy.
A survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20% of high school students have fallen victim to the abuse. East Texas students are not surprised by the statistics.
"More than 20%," said Kiandria Cain, a high school sophomore. "People carry around pills and stuff like that. That's what they do more than drugs."
"I know a lot of people doing it for AP tests and stuff like that to help them focus during the test and SAT," said Eric Johnson, who just graduated high school. "When it's like a four hour test, it helps them stay focused during the whole thing."
"I know people that need it so they get it for them and then give it to other people," said Sonorah Duty.
The survey reveals prescription drug abuse is most common among white students at 23%, followed by Hispanic students at 17%, and African-American students at 12%.
Effinger says taking medication not prescribed to you can lead to overdose, addiction, and even death.
"Vicodin, oxycontin, those drugs depress respiration and if you drink with them, you can pass out and stop breathing," said Effinger. "That's how they kill you."
Regardless of the risks, the teens say it is a common behavior that many adults have ignored.
"Not very many parents talk about it I don't think," said Chris Cook.
"Parents simply must be in charge of their children's medication,"said Effinger.
They say it is a family effort to curb a potentially deadly addiction.
This was the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked a question about prescription drugs on its survey. The next survey will be done in 2011.