WASHINGTON — Teens increasingly are getting high on legal painkillers and mood stimulants, and are turning to cough syrup as well, a government survey has found.
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 drug abuse by teenagers.
It found that though 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 14 high school seniors said they used cold medicine "fairly recently" to get high, the study found.
It was the first year that the government tracked how often teens reportedly got high on over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.
The study found that about one in 10 high school seniors had abused the painkiller Vicodin. John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said teens may be raiding their parents' medicine cabinets.
The rise in prescription drug abuse was a troubling conclusion in a study that Walters described as good news overall because of the drop in teen use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and other illicit substances.
An estimated 840,000 fewer teens reported using illegal drugs now compared with five years ago, he said.
The 32nd annual study surveyed 50,000 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades at more than 400 schools nationwide.