From the Taunton Gazette

A vast majority of Massachusetts parents don’t realize that some prescription drugs contain ingredients similar to heroin, and some have even given their children prescription pain medication without a doctor’s consent, a new study shows.

Results of the Internet survey – conducted by the nonprofit organization, Partnership at, and released today by state officials – underscore a lack of understanding by some parents of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Among the 305 Massachusetts parents surveyed, 67 percent say they are concerned their children will try drugs. But only 2 percent say they are concerned about prescription drugs, a figure that lags far behind that of alcohol (33 percent), marijuana (11 percent) and and cocaine or crack (6 percent).

Furthermore, only 30 percent say they realized that the main ingredient in many prescription drugs, including Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, is similar to heroin and morphine.

State Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain – co-chairs of the state’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse – were to announce the survey results at a press conference this morning at the State House.

Other findings include:

Fifty-six percent of parents say their children have access to their prescription pain medications, with the most common place to store them being the kitchen.

Forty-five percent of parents said they have taken pain medications without a prescription, and 14 percent say they have given their children pain medication without a prescription.

Ninety-seven percent say they have discussed the dangers of alcohol and street drugs with their children, but only 76 percent have specifically discussed prescription pain killers.

The results show a disparity between parents’ knowledge and other data describing prescription drug abuse as one of the region’s fastest growing problems.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, New England in recent years reported the highest levels of prescription drug abuse contributing to violent and property crimes.

It kills more people state-wide than car crashes, according to the state substance abuse committee, and the opiate drug epidemic has claimed thousands of lives in the state, including more than 3,200 over a recent four-year period.

The Enterprise has chronicled the region’s epidemic of prescription-drug and heroin addictions in two series entitled “Wasted Youth” and “Deadly Surge.”

Last month, officials announced a recovery high school will open in Brockton this December, giving the state its fourth school geared toward students recovering from a drug addiction and in a region officials say has long needed it.