Chicago — Drug abuse experts say the arrest of Al Gore's son underscores the growing problem of prescription drug abuse among America's youths. College students use the stimulant Adderall, an attention deficit drug, to get a speedy high or pull all-nighters.
The other drugs police say they found in Al Gore III's possession - marijuana, Xanax, Valium and Vicodin - also are campus favorites, experts say.
"Al Gore's son is just like everyone else's," said Dr. Donald Misch, director of health services at Northwestern University in Evanston. "The only thing missing was the No. 1 abused drug, which is alcohol."
Students commonly pair pills with beer and cigarettes, experts say. They trade tips about the effects of prescription drugs on networking sites like Facebook and trade pills they've stolen from home medicine cabinets, ordered on the Internet or taken from friends with legitimate prescriptions.
Prescription drug abuse among 18- to 25-year-olds rose 17 percent from 2002 to 2005, according to the White House drug policy office. In 2004 and again in 2005, there were more new abusers of prescription drugs than new users of any illicit drug.
Young people mistakenly believe prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, doctors say. But accidental prescription drug deaths are rising and students who abuse pills are more likely to drive fast, binge-drink and engage in other dangerous behaviors.
The White House plans a national advertising campaign aimed at getting parents to clean out their medicine cabinets and lock up any prescription drugs they need, said deputy drug czar Scott Burns.
"We found in focus groups of young people across the country that in large measure they're getting the drugs from their own medicine cabinets and the Internet," Burns said. Some Web pharmacies deliver ordered drugs without legitimate prescriptions, but other sites steal credit card information and never fill orders, Burns said.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans who report abusing prescription drugs say they get them from friends or family, according to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the largest survey on substance abuse in the country with about 70,000 participants.
According to another survey, the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are 14.6 million current marijuana users and 6.4 million prescription drug abusers, with most prescription drug abusers using painkillers such as Vicodin.
Al Gore III, 24, was driving about 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway when he was pulled over Wednesday. He was arrested for illegally possessing marijuana and prescription drugs. While a student at Harvard University, he was arrested in 2003 for marijuana possession.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday his son is getting treatment.
"We're very happy that he's sought and is getting the treatment that he needs," Gore said on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday. "And beyond that, we appreciate the good wishes that have come our way."