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Study finds 20 percent of teens take prescription drugs illegally

A new study shows that one in five Wisconsin teenagers have taken prescription pain killers without permission.

The problem of prescription drug abuse by high school age students is so new, this is the first time the Department of Public Instruction has asked the question in its annual "Youth Risk Behavior Survey." The DPI's Safe and Drug-Free Program's Steve Fernan is surprised so many students say they have experimented with prescription drugs. He says continuing to track this in the survey will allow them to determine if it's a growing or declining trend.

The study says 11 percent of high school age teens took prescription drugs to get high. This emerging problem is now on the state Attorney General's radar. Department of Justice Special Agent Brad Dunlap says prescription drug abuse is leading to drug overdose deaths among teens and surpassing illegal drug overdoses in Wisconsin. He says death from oxycontin use alone is greater than coke, crack and methamphetamine combined.

Dunlap says statistics from the four county area of Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac and Calumet shows more deaths from prescription pain killers among teens than from street drugs. He believes that trend probably is reflected statewide.