Teens and young adults are reaching for prescription drugs more often, sheriffs and therapists say, a trend underscored by last week's shootings of two Minnesota teenagers in a case linked to drug thefts, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Police and treatment officials report a growing number of similar burglaries in which thieves bypass expensive TV sets and silverware for pills and a burgeoning black market for unused painkillers and stimulants. "Prescription drug abuse [ ] is at epidemic proportions," said Dr. Joseph Lee, director of youth services for the Hazelden addiction treatment program. "People would be surprised at the proportion of crimes that are committed, petty and otherwise, in our community, because of drugs."
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in New York City reported this summer that 44 percent of high school students know drug dealers in their schools. A quarter of those dealers peddle prescription pills, making them the second-most common illegal drugs for sale in schools behind marijuana. In a survey of 25,000 students across the metro area last year, the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge found that pill use was up 5 percent over the previous year. Among students ages 11 to 18 who use illegal drugs, 32 percent said they use pills, second only to marijuana. "It's increased each year," said the group's Adam Pederson. "I think our society is overmedicated. There's this misconception that it's safe because it's medicine."