The Robitussin Epidemic


The latest numbers from the Monitoring the Future Study, released today, indicate that methamphetamine use among students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades has been falling steadily since 2001, in the midst of what we are constantly told is a nationwide "meth epidemic." (Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show the same trend for adults.) Marijuana use also is down. So what's the latest chemical menace to the youth of America? There are two contenders, both of which should sound familiar.

"Abuse of prescription opioids remains at unacceptably high levels," declares the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Overall, past-year use of OxyContin rose from 3.4 percent to 3.5 percent, while past-year use of Vicodin rose from 5.7 percent to 6.3 percent. "Of significant concern is the finding that past-year use of Vicodin remained high among all three grades," says the ONDCP, "with nearly one in ten high school seniors using it in the past year." And "despite a drop from 2005–2006 in past-year abuse of OxyContin among 12th graders (from 5.5 percent to 4.3 percent), there has been no such decline among the eighth and 10th grade students."

Doesn't send your heart racing? "There is also concern about non-medical use of over-the-counter drugs," the ONDCP adds. "In the first national survey on non-medical use of cold or cough medicine, the data show that 4.2 percent of eighth-graders, 5.3 percent of 10th graders, and 6.9 percent of 12th graders reported taking cold or cough medicines with dextromethorphan (DXM) during the past year to get high." Of course, since this is the first survey to ask about DXM, those numbers could be down from last year, for all we know.

It's tough to alarm parents and gin up support for the war on drugs with the specter of cough syrup and the occasional Vicodin swiped from Grandma's medicine cabinet. But take heart, drug warriors. I'm sure meth and pot use will go back up again someday.