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The White House
For Immediate Release

White House Drug Policy Director Urges Parents to take Action to Prevent Youth Drug Use

Cites Recent Data Showing Rising Rates of Youth Drug Use as Call for Action; Asks Parents to Learn Common Risk Factors and Act Now Before Drug Use Begins

WASHINGTON— In light of recent data revealing troubling increases in youth drug use in America, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), today urged parents and community leaders to take action to prevent and reduce drug use.

Last month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released data showing drug use in the United States increased significantly between 2008 and 2009 – with 1 in 10 youth ages 12-17 and 1 in 5 young adults ages 18 to 25 reporting drug use in the last month.

Particularly troubling is a 17 percent increase in the rate of prescription drug abuse among young people aged 12-17, between 2008 and 2009. Moreover, treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than four-fold from 1998 (2.2%) to 2008 (9.8%), and the latest data from the Monitoring the Future study show seven of the drugs most commonly used by teens are over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

“Prescription drug abuse is at record levels, attitudes about drug use are eroding, and drugged driving is disturbingly common,” said Director Kerlikowske, “Now more than ever, families must recognize early signs that children may be using drugs and take immediate action to protect them from the potential of a lifetime of drug-related consequences and harm.”

Director Kerlikowske cited three steps parents can take today to prevent drug use:

  1. Talk to your kids about drugs. Research shows parents are the best messengers to deliver critical information on drug use. Make sure they know of the harms that can result from drug use and that you don't approve of them. For tips and parenting advice visit
  2. Learn to spot risk factors that can lead to drug use. Association with drug-abusing peers is often the most immediate risk factor that can lead young people to drug use and delinquent behavior. Other risk factors include poor classroom behavior or social skills and academic failure. Parents can protect their kids from these influences by building strong bonds with their children, staying involved in their lives, and setting clear limits and consistent enforcement of discipline.
  3. Go through your medicine cabinet. More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family – often from the home medicine cabinet. Immediately remove unused or unneeded prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet. Click here to learn how to properly dispose of prescription drugs.

A renewed focus on drug prevention is a major component of the Obama Administration’s effort to implement a public health approach to reducing drug abuse and its consequences. President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request includes an increase of more than $203 million in prevention funding – a 13 percent increase. In August, Director Kerlikowske announced $85 million in Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) funding to 565 community coalitions to help prevent drug use at the local level.

ONDCP has also revamped the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to include a broader focus on substances most often abused by teens, including prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol. The Campaign is also partnering with communities to provide new, locally tailored drug prevention resources for teens and parents.