Almost one in four 12th-graders in Frederick County reported using prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Adderall and Xanax without a doctor’s prescription in 2013, according to a statewide survey.
The availability and accessibility of prescription drugs in teenagers’ homes is what may have led high-schoolers, particularly seniors, to use them, according to Cpl. Vincent Brown, assistant supervisor of the Frederick Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit.
“They’re taking it out of Mom and Dad’s, Grandma’s, a friend’s medical cabinet and using it,” Brown said. “They get it in the house.”
About 18 percent of Frederick County high-schoolers reported taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription in 2013, slightly higher than the Maryland state average of 15.2 percent, according to the results of the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a national survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention in collaboration with state, local and territorial entities to identify the health behaviors of today’s youth, such as eating habits, mental illness experiences, and drug and alcohol use among youths, according to Brittany Behm, of CDC News Media.
The national results and analysis of the 2013 survey are being released today, Behm said.
In 2011, the national average of high-school-age youth who reported using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription at least once remained high at 20 percent, compared with Maryland’s 15 percent, according to the 2011 nationwide report on YRBS results.
State and local entities can modify the survey questions and target audience based on their needs, such as Maryland’s decision to include middle-schoolers in the survey sample, according to Behm.
In Frederick County, 8.7 percent of middle-schoolers tried prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription at least once in their life, with eighth-graders reporting the highest prescription drug use at 9.3 percent, followed by sixth-graders at 8.9 percent, the survey said.
“When you get to ninth grade, you’re starting to become your own person,” said Billy Shreve, a county commissioner who is spearheading drug awareness initiatives. “It’s important for parents to tell their kids, ‘I don’t want you to do this, (and) this is what can happen.’”
Shreve said the best way to prevent teenagers from using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription is through education.
“Parents have to realize it’s (almost) 25 percent of high school seniors, it’s one in four” taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription, Shreve said. “They can’t look around and say, ‘It’s not my child’ anymore.”
The sample size for Frederick County was not large enough to provide reliable data for 2011, said Kristi Pier, of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
However, Brown said he has seen a decrease in prescription drug use among teens starting in fall 2013, and a subsequent increase in the use of heroin.
He said the decline was largely because the Drug Enforcement Administration and pharmaceutical companies have made it harder to access prescription drugs.
“And heroin became cheaper,” he said.
Brown said he saw a peak in prescription drug use in 2010 and 2011, but now many of the people arrested on heroin charges say their addiction began with prescription drugs.
Among heroin users, Brown said, “most people we’re talking to today started on prescription drugs and switched to heroin.”
About 112 per 100,000 people over age 14 in Frederick County were admitted for prescription drug treatment during the 2013 calendar year, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“It’s a community problem,” Shreve said of teens using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. “It’s up to all of us. We all need to educate children about this and save this next life.”
People may dispose of unwanted prescription drugs at four locations in Frederick County:
Thurmont Police Department, 800 E. Main St., Thurmont.
Maryland State Police Barrack, 110 Airport Drive East, Frederick.
Brunswick Police Department, 20 E. A St., Brunswick.
Middletown Municipal Center, 31 W. Main St., Middletown.
Follow Paige Jones on Twitter: @paigeleejones.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of people admitted for prescription drug treatment, over the age of 14, who reside in Frederick.