Farmers' Daughters (and Sons) More Likely to Misuse Prescription Drugs Than Urban Peers

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Rural teens are more likely than their urban counterparts to dip into the medicine cabinet. Credit: Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief that the world's a popping, snorting, prescription drug pharmacy for city-dwelling teens, it turns out their rural peers are more likely to be the ones dipping into Mom and Dad's medicine cabinet to get high.

Rural teens are 26 percent more likely to use prescription drugs such as painkillers and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes than are urban teens, according to a new study published in JAMA's Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

But when it comes to illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, all teens -- city and country folk, alike -- equally experiment, the study finds. The bottom line? Urban teens have greater access to a wide variety of drugs, where country teens use what is more readily available to them: Mom and Dad's prescription pills, the study reports.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky surveyed 17,872 teens aged 12 to 17; about half of the kids lived in an urban setting and 17 percent lived in rural environs. About 10 percent of the city teens had experimented with over-the-counter drugs, but 13 percent of rural kids reported taking prescription medicines that were not their own, the study finds.

"Much research has shown that young teens with health and mental health problems that are not being treated adequately are likelier to turn to addictive substances, that prescription drugs are there for the taking in medicine cabinets across the country and that parents are the greatest influence -- for better or worse -- in whether a young person turns to these drugs," Susan Foster, of Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, tells CNN. "Early intervention is key though, since in most cases addiction has its origin in the teen years."

Foster tells CNN the use of non-medical prescription drugs has increased 212 percent among U.S. teens from 1992 to 2003, and it is a growing problem that can lead to other addictive behaviors including gambling, increased sexual activity and impulsivity. Individuals who use prescription drugs earlier in life have a greater chance of later developing prescription drug dependence, the study reports.

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