Alaska health officials say that teens in the state have “concerning” opinions on prescription and illicit drug use.
1,332 students from 40 high schools across the state were polled in the “Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” According to that survey, less than half of Alaska high school students reported they think taking prescription drugs, including opioid pain medications, without a doctor’s prescription or using the medication differently than prescribed is a serious risk.
This means that over half of Alaska teens do not see prescription drug abuse or misuse as a “serious risk.”
Officials with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services see this as a serious problem. “Using pain medication like Vicodin or OxyContin without a prescription can be extremely dangerous,” said Jay Butler, Chief Medical Officer for the Alaska DHSS. “Our department is working diligently with local agencies and schools to provide teens and their families with accurate information about the safe use and disposal of prescription opioids.”
Not only that, the survey also showed that seven percent reported that they currently use prescription drugs without a prescription or differently than prescribed within the past month. Additionally, the DHSS said in a news release Friday, “Nearly two percent of Alaska teens currently use heroin.”
The survey, titled “Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” also asked Alaska teens about marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol. Most high school students polled said they don’t see a risk in using marijuana weekly, and among students who drive, 16 percent admitted to driving after using marijuana.
The survey included more social questions as well, regarding sexual activity and interaction with peers and teachers. According to the survey, a greater percentage of high school students said they believe their teachers care about and encourage them than they did 10 years ago in similar surveys.