WASHINGTON - More parents need to talk with their teens about the dangers of abusing Ritalin, Adderall and other prescription drugs, suggests a new study that finds discouraging trends on kids and drug use.
When teens were asked about the last substance-abuse conversation they had with their parents, just 14 percent said they talked about abusing a prescription drug, said the report being released today by The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
"For parents, it really comes down to not using the power they have because they don't think this is an immediate problem, meaning their own home, own neighborhood kind of thing," says Steve Pasierb, president of the partnership. "They believe that this is probably a safer way, not as bad as illegal street drugs."
By comparison, most teens - 81 percent - said they have talked about the risks of marijuana use with their parents. Almost the same number said they have discussed alcohol with their parents. Almost one-third said they have talked about crack and cocaine.
Some parents didn't see a significant risk in teens misusing prescription drugs. One in six parents said using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs, according to the survey. Almost one-third of the parents said attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can improve a child's academic or testing performance even if the teen does not have ADHD.
One in four teens in the study said they had misused or abused a prescription drug at least once. That's up sharply, a 33 percent increase, in the last five years. One in eight teens report misusing or abusing the drugs Ritalin or Adderall. Other national studies also have seen a rise in abuse numbers for these stimulants among teens.
Pasierb said parents need to talk early and often with their children about the dangers of drugs, including prescription drugs.
"They need to tell their children that this isn't healthy for you and it will break my heart if you do this," he said.
The partnership's study was sponsored by the MetLife Foundation. Researchers surveyed 3,884 teens in grades 9-12 with anonymous questionnaires that the youngsters filled out at school from February to June 2012. The teen sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. For the adults, the sample was 817 for surveying conducted from August to October 2012, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.