Teenagers and Young Adults Found as the Strongest Drivers in Prescription Drug Abuse

A new study from the University of Colorado Denver reveals that teenagers and young adults are leading the way in painkiller abuse.

prescription drugs abuse in high schoolAccording to a news release, today’s adolescents are abusing prescription pain medications like Vicodin, Valium, and Oxycontin at a rate 40 percent higher than previous generations.

“Prescription drug use is the next big epidemic,” said Richard Miech, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of sociology at CU Denver. “Everyone in this field has recognized that there is a big increase in the abuse of nonmedical analgesics but our study shows that it is accelerating among today’s generation of adolescents.”

Miech and colleagues analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and found the prevalence of prescription pain medication abuse among the current generation of youth is “higher than any generation ever measured.” The finding applies among subgroups of men, women, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. In addition, the researchers said there are a number of factors that are driving this trend, one of them is the parents’ influence on their children.

“Youth who observe their parents taking analgesics as prescribed may come to the conclusion that any use of these drugs is OK and safe,” Miech said.

Miech added that people who abuse prescription pain relievers report that they obtained the medicines from family or friends.

The study, published on Tuesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health, further noted that nonmedical analgesic use accounted for an increase in emergency room visits of 129 percent between 2004 and 2009. Prescription drug abuse led to a threefold increase in unintentional overdose mortality from the 1990s to 2007.

“The increasing availability of analgesics in the general population is well documented, as the total number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the U.S. increased more than fourfold from about 40 million in 1991 to nearly 180 million in 2007,” the study said. “Higher prevalence of analgesics makes first-time NAU among contemporary youth easier than in the past because more homes have prescription analgesics in their medicine cabinets.”

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