Reports that prescription drug abuse is a growing problem among teens may surprise many adults, but some students say it's old news.
"They're everywhere," Moffat County High School junior Mari-aha Morningstar said. "They're so easily obtainable, and people are bored."
According to Morningstar and other students interviewed for this story, many students are looking for any opportunity for a high.
"They want anything that will make them numb," said Maddy Attolini, a junior.
Research, including a survey conducted at Moffat County High this school year, supports what she's seeing.
Nearly 30 percent of the 488 teens who participated in the substance abuse study at the high school said they had used a prescription drug without a prescription.
Of those who said they had used a prescription drug without a prescription, 13 percent reported trying prescriptions only once or twice, 8 percent said they had used prescriptions to get high three to nine times and 7 percent more than 10 times.
"They're getting it from somewhere and people need to know that," Grand Futures Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Director Cindy Biskup said. "We haven't addressed prescription drugs much, there have just been other things we thought were bigger problems."
The survey, which Grand Futures co-sponsored with the high school, changed her opinion. Prescriptions ranked only behind alcohol and marijuana as the drugs of choice among teens.
Also disturbing is that teens aren't popping pills, they're crushing them and snorting them.
Attolini said teens break open ink pens and use them like a straw to sniff the powder.
And, that's not the only thing they're putting up their noses.
"People will sniff sugar when they're bored," Attolini said.
Her friends listed other things they've seen students sniff, including Pixie Stix, Tylenol and art plaster.
"People even pass around their inhalers," freshman Courtney Teeter said.
High school Principal Jane Krogman said it's difficult to catch students using prescription drugs and that most drug-sniffing dogs are not trained to identify them.
Two students have been suspended this school year for distributing prescriptions.
Still, Krogman said, there's definitely a feeling that students aren't opposed to popping pills.
"They think because it's a prescription drug, it won't hurt them," she said.
Pain-killers and stimulants are among students' favorites, and label warnings are often ignored, according to students interviewed.
"They love the ones that have the label that says 'do not take with alcohol,'" one student said.
Biskup said that a number of survey respondents reported taking prescriptions with alcohol.
The survey results were enlightening, Biskup said, and Grand Futures will tailor its drug abuse prevention presentations to include the risks.
But, the survey didn't answer one of Biskup's most pressing questions.
"I'd like to know why teens feel the need to experiment with things they know nothing about to get a high," she said. "We have a lot more research to do."
The Partnership for a Drug Free America's annual tracking study in 2005 found that nationally, one in six teens has abused a prescription pain medication. One in 10 had abused prescription stimulants and tranquilizers and one in 11 teens has abused cough medication
"Many teens think these drugs are safe because they have legitimate uses, but taking them without a prescription to get high or 'self-medicate' can be as dangerous -- and addictive -- as using street narcotics and other illicit drugs," the Partnership reports.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.