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Study: Pharmaceuticals Kill More Teens Than Illegal Substances in the US

Combine the number of overdose deaths caused by heroin and cocaine, and you still haven’t matched the number of deaths caused by pharmaceutical prescription medications each year in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, pharmaceutical abuse was responsible for about 23,000 deaths in 2013  — that’s more than half of the overdose deaths in the U.S. that year.

Prescription drugs have a disproportionately large effect on teenagers. A recentstudy published in Journal of Public Policy and Marketing sheds light on this issue, which the CDC has labeled an “epidemic.”

Over 1,000 teenagers in 40 different regions around the U.S. participated in an online survey that questioned them about their use of alcohol, tobacco, legal drugs and illegal drugs. Participants were asked if they suffer from anxiety, if they have a desire to be “popular,” how often they participate in exciting activities, and whether they consider using drugs risky.

The authors of the study — Richard Netemeyer of University of Virginia, Scot Burton of University of Arkansas, Barbara Delaney of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, and Gina Hijjawi of American Institutes for Research — published several conclusions.

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