Drugs of Abuse

Did you know that prevention works? School nurses and other prevention agents have been working hard to help reverse the trend of youth using prescription drugs for nonmedical use. The data below indicates that although some progress has been made in reducing the nonmedical use of pain relievers among persons aged 12 or older, and the rate of current illicit drug use among youths aged 12-17 is lower in 2013; the overall rate of substance abuse is unacceptably high and prevention efforts need to increase. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health also indicated that "The prevalence of past month illicit drug use in 2013 was lower among youths who reported having such exposure to prevention messages compared with youths who did not have such exposure."

In 2013, an estimated 2.8 million persons aged 12 or older used an illicit drug for the first time within the past 12 months. About 1 in 5 initiated with nonmedical use of prescription drugs (20.6 percent, including 12.5 percent with pain relievers, 5.2 percent with tranquilizers, 2.7 percent with stimulants, and 0.2 percent with sedatives).

In 2013, the illicit drug categories with the largest number of past year initiates were marijuana use (2.4 million) and nonmedical use of pain relievers (1.5 million). The marijuana estimate was similar to the numbers in 2008 to 2012; however, the estimate for nonmedical use of pain relievers was lower in 2013 than in 2002 through 2012.

Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current illicit drug use was lower in 2013 (8.8 percent) than in 2002 to 2007 (ranging from 9.6 to 11.6 percent) and in 2009 to 2012 (ranging from 9.5 to 10.1 percent).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

When prescription drug abuse became a serious, growing problem in the United States, especially among pre-teens, adolescents, and young adults, NASN reached out to its members to offer help by providing prevention programming and other resources.

Following are some of the ways NASN responded to member requests for education courses, tools, and other resources. NASN is committed to keeping prevention efforts front and center in our Nation’s schools.

NASN Resources

Naloxone in Schools Toolkit 

National Association of School Nurses. (2020). Naloxone in the school setting (Position Statement). Silver Spring, MD: Author.

National Association of School Nurses (2019). Cannabis/Marijuana (Position Brief). Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Blog post: School Nurses: Trusted Student Health Professionals and Agents of Substance Abuse Prevention

Partnership with Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)

A prevention campaign working to alert parents and members of the community about the problem of teen abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM).

The Five Moms Initiative
The five moms – a school nurse, an accountant, a law enforcement officer, a high school math teacher, and an author – from all over the country came together with a common concern: teenagers abusing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to get high. Through their blog, they talk openly about challenges parents face in getting through to teens, and offer from-the-heart advice on how to prevent OTC cough medicine abuse in our homes and communities.

Page last updated December 2015.