Rural Teens Abusing Prescription Drugs

Some people have lived in the country for generations. Some people leave the hustle and bustle of city life in search of peace and quiet.

For those who leave the city for life in the country, there may be at least one misperception. While it is certainly true that in leaving the urban areas, families will likely leave behind things like traffic snarls, pollution and noise, it is less certain that they can get away from problems like teen drug use.

A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine says that teens who live in outlying rural areas are more liable than their urban counterparts to misuse prescription drugs.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2008, teenagers who live in the country are 26% more apt to abuse prescription drugs than city-dwelling teens after other considerations were factored out. The statistic is particularly interesting since the rates for illicit drug use are the same regardless of whether a teen lives in a rural or urban area. The problem of prescription drug abuse is a national one with one out of every eight teenagers reporting having abused prescription drugs at one time or another in their life. So why might it be that the problem is greater for rural teens?

A number of possible reasons why the problem is worse among teens in rural areas have been posited. It could be that rural teens have more free time on their hands or that they receive less anti-drug education. Some have suggested that rural teenagers may feel that they are less apt to be caught by law enforcement. Availability of prescription drugs has certainly increased.

Physicians are writing more prescriptions than ever before. At the same time, prescription drug abuse among teens rose 212% between 1992-2003. More prescriptions being filled means that there are more drugs at home in the family medicine cabinet. If not there, it is still an easy matter to purchase them from friends. Since prescription drug use is considered by many to be a gateway into illicit drug use, it is imperative that steps be taken to remedy the situation.

Fortunately there are things parents can do:

  • Make sure that your kids attend school
  • Make sure that your kids are treated for all health and mental health concerns
  • Hold the family together — Two parent households reduce the risk of teen substance abuse by 32%
  • Eat dinner as a family
  • Make sure you are involved with your teen — when families spend meaningful time together the risk for smoking, drinking and drugs all go down

Prescription drug abuse poses many of the same dangers as does the abuse of illicit drugs. For this reason, these findings ought to spur rural communities into greater action whether through enhanced anti-drug education campaigns or greater focus from police and pharmacies. Regardless of whether the community at large takes action, parental involvement in their teen’s life holds the greatest impact.

Life in the country can be the quiet and positive existence that many seek. Just don’t be fooled into assuming that by escaping the city, you can escape problems or the need for positive parental interaction with your teen.

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