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Most Opioid, Heroin Abusing Teens in America First Received Drugs From Doctors

Mar 22, 2017 12:28 PM EDT
Prescription Opioids
Most teenagers who got addicted with opioids first received drugs with the help of a prescription from doctors.
(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A new study from the University of Michigan revealed that most teenagers who got addicted with opioids first received drugs with the help of a prescription from doctors.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that U.S. teens that got hooked up with opioids first took the drugs for medical reason, before being completely addicted to them.

"One consistent finding we observed over the past two decades is that the majority of nonmedical users of prescription opioids also have a history of medical use of prescription opioids," said Sean McCabe, a research professor at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of the study, in a report from Live Science. "This means health professionals who prescribe opioid medications to adolescents can play an important role in reducing prescription opioid misuse."

For the study, the researchers analyzed the data from the Monitoring the Future study of adolescents, a study that started in 1975 and follows the trend on substance abuse among American teenagers, high school graduates and college-age students. Self-reported medical and nonmedical use of prescription opioids was examined using 40 cohorts of nationally representative samples of high school seniors.

The researchers found that lifetime prevalence of medical use of prescription opioids peaked in both 1989 and 2002, before going relatively stable until 2013. Careful prescribing practices implemented by the FDA and CDC paid off as the lifetime prevalence of prescription opioid started to drop in the recent years.

In 2015, about 8 percent of teenagers reported abusing prescription opioids. Out of those, majority said they have been prescribed opioids before due to medical concerns.

McCabe noted that the goal of the study is not to reduce prescription opioids, but to gain a balance between making sure that patients received adequate amount of prescription opioids for their medical condition while minimizing potential adverse opioid-related consequences.

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