The abuse of prescription drugs has been described as an epidemic by both the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when most people think about the problem, not many picture young teenagers casually sharing drugs prescribed for their friends.

That is exactly what apparently transpired last week at Ray Borane Middle School in Douglas, Arizona, where at least 18 students between the ages of 13 and 14 were hospitalized after partaking in Clonidine, a prescription drug used in the treatment of ADHD, certain pain disorders and high blood pressure. The students exhibited symptoms including drowsiness and confusion.

You might see this incident as an aberration, that is, something that would happen only rarely. But if you take a look at the news from around the country, you might be surprised at how common the practice of children sharing drugs really is, and the ramifications of that conduct. Here are some other recent examples:

  • In June, a student at a San Diego middle school was hospitalized after taking medication prescribed for his friend.
  • In April, paramedics were summoned to a junior high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where nine students reportedly ingested Abilify, an anti-psychotic prescription drug used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • This past spring, as many as nine seventh graders at a Tulsa junior high school were evaluated for drug use after they reportedly took a prescription anti-depressant prescribed for another student.
  • Last year, eight students at an Apple Valley, California between the ages of 12 and 14 were hospitalized after taking their friend’s clonazepam. The generic name for this drug is Klonopin, a muscle relaxant that can produce a euphoric effect.
  • Also last year, several sixth graders in Ashdown Junior High School in Arkansas were treated for the effects of a taking a drug prescribed for one of their classmates.

Prescription drug abuse continues to be a huge problem. Based upon the reports we see, the issue is affecting younger and younger children, in some cases so young that they may not have the ability to appreciate the possible dangers of their conduct.

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