The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Launches New Campaign Featuring Super Bowl Ads to Combat Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

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ONDCP launches new campaign with Super Bowl ads to address the growing problem of teen prescription drug abuse. Scott M. Burns, Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy explains the problem and offers advice for parents.

More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana; more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. Every day, 2,500 kids age 12-17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time and more people are getting addicted to prescription drugs. In fact, prescription drugs are the drug of choice among 12- to 13-year-olds.

To address this growing problem, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is launching its first major Federal effort to educate parents about teen prescription drug abuse. This national public health initiative kicks off with an advertisement in the Super Bowl, and will include more broadcast, print, and online advertising, community outreach, and new print and online resources to help parents and communities combat this troubling trend. The campaign engages parents and other adults in the effort to reduce youth prescription drug abuse by urging them to take five specific steps to immediately reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse in their own homes.

Below is an overview of the problem and advice for parents from Scott M. Burns, Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

1. What's the problem?
Teens are abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs in growing numbers. Many say they believe using these drugs provides a "safe" high and are not as dangerous as street drugs.

While parents say they talk to their teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, they are not discussing the risks of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs like cough and cold remedies. Teens, however, say that they care about what their parents think, especially when it comes to drug use.

2. What happens to teens who abuse Rx drugs?
In the past five years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of poisonings and even deaths associated with the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The need for treatment for addiction to painkillers has also grown more than 300 percent in the past decade.

The prescription drugs most commonly abused by teens are painkillers (like Vicodin and OxyContin), depressants (like sleeping pills), and stimulants (like Ritalin). Depending on which drugs teens take, and if they take them in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs, they can face a number of serious side effects - even upon first use.

3. How are teens getting these drugs?
Prescription drugs are everywhere - in our medicine cabinets, at grandma's house, at friends' houses - and they are generally free for the taking. And because these drugs are so readily available, teens who otherwise wouldn't touch "street" drugs might be tempted to try prescription drugs.

Check your own house and talk to your friends and relatives about monitoring their prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Visit to find out about the potential prescription drug danger zones in your own homes and neighborhoods.

4. What can parents do about it?
As a dad of a teenager myself, I know how hard it is to protect our children from the outside world and still give them enough freedom to make their own decisions. It is possible to strike a balance, however, and teens whose parents express strong disapproval of drug use are far less likely to engage in substance abuse.

Once parents understand the threat of prescription drug abuse - which is most often present within the home - there are specific ways they can immediately reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse:

-Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access.
-Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider's advice and dosages.
-Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines.
-Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines in the trash.
-Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well.

More tips for parents on how to safeguard your teens

Scott Burns was nominated by President Bush and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in December 2007 to serve as Deputy Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Prior to that, Mr. Burns served as Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs at ONDCP, following his confirmation in April 2002.

As the Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy, Mr. Burns is responsible for coordination and implementation of the President's National Drug Control Strategy. This comprehensive and balanced strategy includes policies and programs directed toward prevention and education, treatment, and supply reduction and law enforcement.


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