Washington Teens increasingly are getting high with legal drugs like painkillers and mood stimulants, and they're turning to cough syrup as well, according to a government survey released Thursday.
The annual study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, conducted by the University of Michigan, showed mixed results in the nation's longtime campaign against teen drug abuse.
It found that while fewer teens overall drank alcohol or used illegal drugs in the last year, a small but growing number were popping prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin and stimulants like Ritalin.
As many as one in every 14 high school seniors said they used cold medicine "fairly recently" to get high, the study found.
It was the first year the government tracked the frequency of teens who reported getting high from over-the-counter medicine for coughs and colds.
"It's bad that kids are buying cough syrup and using it this way - it's not good for them," said John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The study found about one in 10 high school seniors have abused the painkiller Vicodin, and Walters said kids may be pilfering the pills from their parents' medicine cabinets.
An estimated 840,000 fewer teens reported using illegal drugs now compared with five years ago, he said.
The annual study, in its 32nd year, surveyed 50,000 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades at more than 400 schools nationwide. It found, that over the last year:
¢ Illegal drug use at all three grade levels dropped, if only slightly. An estimated 36.5 percent of high school seniors reported using illicit drugs at some point in the year.
¢ Marijuana remained the single most abused drug among teens, although its use also dropped slightly within all three grades. Nearly 12 percent of eighth-graders reported using it, compared with 25 percent of 10th-graders and 31 percent of high school seniors.
¢ One-third of eighth-graders said they had consumed alcoholic beverages, compared with more than a half of 10th-graders and two-thirds of seniors surveyed. That also was a small decrease among the three grade levels.