1 in 10 teens abuse pain meds and sedatives

1 in 10 teens abuse pain meds and sedatives

According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 2,000 teens each day start down a slippery slope of abusing prescription drugs. A new study confirms this epidemic with new data on how often teens and young adults who come into the emergency room (ER) misuse prescription pain meds as well as sedatives.

The study, published in late October in the online issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that nearly one in 10 teens, or 10.4 percent, treated in the ER reported non-medical or illicit prescription opiate or sedative use at least once within the last year. That included taking drugs to get high, taking more of the drug than what was prescribed or taking drugs prescribed to someone else.

Of those teens, only 14.6 percent had a prescription for an opiate and only 12.3 percent had a prescription for a sedative. Results were based on data from a survey of more than 2,000 young adults between the ages of 14 and 20, conducted in 2010 and 2011 during visits to the University of Michigan Health System’s adult and pediatric emergency departments.

Lead study author Dr. Lauren Whiteside of the emergency medicine department at the University of Washington in Seattle said in a release that the findings suggest the emergency department could be an effective setting for screening teens and young adults for prescription drug misuse and for early intervention to stem problems.

Using the ER as a setting for screening and intervention has also been suggested in research on other issues including alcohol abuse, non-prescription “hard” drug abuse and violence.

Co-study author Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, a University of Michigan associate professor of emergency medicine, said, “It will likely take a concerted effort at the state level, with improved information systems aiding prescribing physicians to identify youth at risk, a change in prescribing practices that take into account the epidemic and the public health crisis, and improved early screening and intervention to change the current rising trend of overdose deaths related to prescription medications.”

Related Posts


One Comment

  1. Scary stuff!

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.