Pain Medicine Misuse in Teens May Lead to Drug Abuse Problem During Adulthood: Study

Prescription drug abuse among teens has been a major concern in the United States even as a majority of the population remains unaware of the gravity of the problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are rampantly abused by American teens, mostly aged 14 and above. It is only next to marijuana and alcohol abuse.

Teens who misuse pain medication are more likely to abuse other harmful substances as adults, predicts a recent study published in the journal Pain in July 2016. Starting early on misuse of pain medication exposes adolescents to more illicit drugs when they become adults. The researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) have been urging parents to properly dispose of leftover medicines at home. This simple action by parents can prevent teens at home from misusing any pain medication.

The study made use of the data from the Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by U-M and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It monitored alcohol and another drug usage among 4,000 high school seniors from graduating classes (1976–1996) to adulthood (1993–2013).

The U-M researchers claimed that teens who used pain medications, like codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and other prescription opioids, for nonmedical purposes developed a higher propensity to substance abuse by the age 35.

On the contrary, lead author of the study Sean Esteban McCabe, a research professor at the U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender, claimed that using opioid pain medicines during adolescence does not increase the risk of substance abuse in adulthood.

Enhanced vigilance needed when prescribing opioids

The study revealed that approximately 25 percent adolescents showed lifetime medical use of prescription opioids or nonmedical use of prescription painkillers at age 18. More than 90 percent teens who reported nonmedical use of prescription opioids at age 18 did not continue to use them until age 35.

But, approximately 53 percent of adolescents who had used prescription pain relievers for nonmedical purposes at the age of 18 showed two or more substance use disorder symptoms at the age of 35.

The researchers also observed a trend that more than 25 percent teens who had medically used prescription opioids also had a history of nonmedical use of such medicines at age 18. This had substantially increased the risk of illicit opioid use in adulthood. This phenomenon could be the result of the fact that more than a third of the adolescents who reported nonmedical use of opioids used leftover medications from their own medicines.

“These findings indicate to health professionals and parents that enhanced vigilance is needed when prescribing opioids and monitoring their use among adolescents to reduce subsequent prescription opioid misuse and substance use disorders,” said McCabe.

Recovery roadmap

Prescription drug abuse has reached the level of an epidemic in the U.S., with millions dying of overdoses every year. To curb the problem, a collaborative effort is required from everyone, touched or untouched by this scourge. Disposing of leftover medications responsibly, as highlighted in the study, is a crucial preventive measure.

However, prescription drug abuse is a treatable condition when intervened early. So, if a loved one is in the grip of prescription drug abuse and you are looking for prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Arizona, you may contact the Arizona Prescription Abuse Helpline for an immediate response. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–692–3563 to connect to the best prescription drug abuse treatment clinics in Arizona where treatment is comprehensive and recovery long-term.