The Medicine Abuse Project Launches Initiative to Curb Growing Epidemic

-National Action Campaign Will Prevent Half a Million Teens from Abusing Medicine in Five Years-

SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 New York, NY – With the ultimate goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing medicine within five years, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids will launch The Medicine Abuse Project during the week of September 23-29, 2012. The launch week will kick start a multi-year effort to help educate parents, teens and the public about the dangers of medicine abuse and unite parents, educators, health care providers, coaches, government officials, law enforcement officers and other partners to help save lives.

Every day more than 2,000 teens abuse prescription drugs for the first time.[1] Teen medicine abuse has become a pervasive and devastating problem, with one in six teens admitting to using a prescription drug to get high or change their mood.[2] Most teens who report medicine abuse say they get those medications from their family or friends.[3] More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes and this increasing trend is driven by overdoses from prescription painkillers.[4] Apart from the human toll, all of this is an enormous drain on the nation’s economy, with the health care costs related to this behavior estimated at more than $72 billion annually.[5]

New research released today from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids shows the issue of teen medicine abuse is more widespread than parents think. Only six percent of parents of teens believe their child has abused medicine, when in fact one in 10 teens (10 percent) admit they misused/abused medicines in the past six months.[6]

According to the new survey, although roughly one in five teens and parents (19 percent and 22 percent respectively) say they know someone who has died due to medicine abuse, the issue is simply not on parents’ radar screens. Parents rank medicine abuse only 13th among the list of greatest concerns for teens, below both alcohol and illegal drug use.[7]

The research findings also showed that while parents say they do not give their children medicines that were not prescribed for them, teens tell a different story. Only 3 percent of parents of teens admit giving their child a medication not prescribed for them, while one in five (22 percent) teens report that their parents have done exactly that.

“Our new research reveals that Americans drastically underestimate the negative impact that the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough medicine is having on teens today,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Unfortunately, right now, all the elements are aligned for a ‘perfect storm’ to continue threatening the health and well-being of our kids. From the easy accessibility that teens have to medicines in their own homes, coupled with a low perception of risk in abusing them – to parents giving their own kids medicines that are not prescribed to them – we must all take action to turn the tide on this epidemic. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

The problem extends to abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine. Only about half of teens (52 percent) say they see serious risks in using OTC cough medicine for something other than its intended use, while approximately two-thirds of teens (66 percent) report they see serious risk in using (Rx) prescriptions not meant for them.

With most teens saying they have easy access to medicine in their own homes, and those of friends and other family members, there is a great need to safeguard medicines in the home. According to the new research:

  • A majority of teens (79 percent) say they know where their parents keep their prescription medicines, and 37 percent of teens say it’s relatively easy to get medicines from home.
  • Of those parents who said they keep medicines in their home, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) keep them in case they, or someone else, need them in the future.

“It’s crucial for us as parents to talk with our kids about the dangers of abusing medicine and to make sure that the medicines in our homes are secure at all times,” said Phil Bauer, a father who lost his 18-year-old son Mark to Rx abuse. “My wife and I learned about the dangers of abusing medicine when we found our son’s lifeless body in his bed just a week before his high school graduation – and life as we knew it ended when Mark died. I urge all parents to take preventive action and protect your kids and families. Please do this before it’s too late.”

Everyone has the opportunity to help end medicine abuse by visiting a new, dedicated website,, and taking the Pledge to become educated about the issue and talk with the kids and teens in their lives. The comprehensive site also features tools designed to help health care providers address the abuse of medications with their patients.

With many influential voices joining the effort, The Medicine Abuse Project brings people together at the national and local levels – calling on parents, educators, health care professionals, government leaders, law enforcement, media partners, business and community members to create a groundswell and help curb this growing health epidemic. The Project is further bolstered by a multi-platform media campaign, with major support from national network and cable television, national magazines and newspapers, along with digital and social media.

Among the growing list of strategic partners, federal partners and funders for The Medicine Abuse Project are: A&E, Abbott Laboratories, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Emergency Room Physicians, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Cardinal Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CVS Caremark, Drug Enforcement Administration, Horizon Media, Mallinckrodt, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, National Association of School Nurses, National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Purdue Pharma and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. (A full list can be found at

A series of launch week events will support the goal of educating people about teen medicine abuse and share the stories of families affected by the issue. As the week culminates with the Drug Enforcement Administration-sponsored National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day – thousands of local take-back events taking place in communities across the nation – the campaign will also help facilitate the proper disposal of unused medications.

[1] 2009 OAS/SAMHSA

[2] 2011 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, sponsored by MetLife Foundation

[3] National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[5] Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, 2007

[6] the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: The Medicine Abuse Project National Survey

[7] the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: The Medicine Abuse Project National Survey