Politics & Government

Ky. teens using fewer prescription drugs improperly, officials say

Use of prescription drugs without a doctor's direction has dropped significantly among young people over the past four years, state officials announced Friday.

In 2008, 15.2 percent of 12th-graders surveyed said they had used prescription drugs without a doctor's permission, but that figure dropped to 9 percent in 2012, according to a news release from Gov. Steve Beshear's office.

The findings were part of the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey.

Students surveyed in the project have reported a decrease in unauthorized prescription drug use since 2004, but the decline picked up since 2008, according to the news release.

Students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 take the survey. In 2012, 122,718 students at 153 of the state's 174 school districts took part.

Among 10th-graders, reported use of prescription medication without a doctor's direction dropped from 14.1 percent in 2008 to 7.6 percent in 2012.

Use among 8th-graders dropped from 6.5 percent in 2008 to 2.9 percent in 2012, and it declined from 2 percent to 1 percent among students in grade 6 in that time, according to the survey.

Students reported a decline between 2008 and 2012 in the use of nearly every substance covered, including alcohol, tobacco, cocaine and hard drugs.

The level of marijuana use stayed the same or went up slightly, however.

Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway credited education efforts for the decline in improper prescription drug use.

"Our public health and law enforcement communities have worked tirelessly to educate the public about the dangers of using prescriptions outside of a doctor's care," Beshear said in the news release. "And this report shows that when people have the correct information, they make better choices."

Conway said his office has reached more than 25,000 students, teachers and parents with an education campaign in middle and high schools.

Regional centers operated by the state Substance Abuse Prevention Branch also have stepped up efforts over the past four years in working with local coalitions on programs to reduce drug abuse among young people, said Connie Smith, manager of the branch.

Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said he thinks a recognition of the dangers of abusing prescription drugs is spreading among Kentucky teens. "The perception of risk is always a key factor in the abuse of substances," Ingram said.

The survey is implemented by the Kentucky Division of Behavioral Health and measures drug use, school safety issues and gambling.