Substance Abuse

1 in 8 Teens Engage in Misuse of Prescription Painkillers

New research that focused on the use of prescription painkillers by teens was able to determine that one in eight teens misuse prescription painkillers.

The findings are based on two surveys regarding the recent or lifetime use of prescription painkillers – including such commonly-abused pain medication as oxycontin and codeine – by teenagers.

Over the past twenty years, the United States has seen an increase in the medical and recreational use of opioid drugs, as well as deaths due to overdose on painkillers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 14,800 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008 – thrice the number of deaths due to overdose two decades earlier.

One of the studies was led by Sean Esteban McCabe from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He and his colleagues analyzed the drug-related responses of teenagers to a general survey of behaviors and attitudes; the survey had 7,400 respondents who were high school seniors, in 2007 through 2009.

Their analysis found that about 13 percent – or one in eight – of teens admitted to using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons, such as to get high or relieve pain without a doctor’s supervision. McCabe shared: “There does seem to be a casual attitude held by some regarding sharing medications that have abuse potential… Some kids are using opioid medications to self-treat pain, and really they would benefit from a professional assessment for their pain management.”

In addition, a study conducted by James Anthony of Michigan State University in East Lansing found that one in 30 or 40 teens used painkillers for non-medical purposes for the first time at the age of 16.

The findings of both studies were published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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