Study: 11 Percent of High School Seniors Misused Leftover Prescription Drugs in Past Year


More than one-third (44 percent) of high school seniors who reported prescription drug use obtained the drugs from multiple sources, according to a pair of new studies by the University of Michigan.  

Approximately 11 percent of high school seniors reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year. Among students who obtained drugs from multiple sources, 70 percent were found to have a substance abuse disorder in the past year. Nearly one-third of prescription drug misusers used their own leftover medication, the study found.

Girls were found to be more likely to use leftover drugs than boys, while boys were found more likely to obtain prescription drugs from friends or by purchasing them. The most common ways for adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age to obtain prescription drugs were getting them for free from their friends, doctor’s prescriptions for opioids, and buying them illegally, according to the study.   

The first study examined 18,549 high school seniors and identified 3 classes of prescription drugs: opioids, stimulants and tranquilizers. Investigators looked at the student's differences in motives and behaviors. In the second study, investigators identified how 103,920 young people aged 12 to 17 years obtain controlled medications. The national average for adolescents with a substance abuse disorder is 5 percent, according to the study authors.  

“The implications from these two studies could not be clearer,” senior author and co-director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health, Sean Esteban McCabe said in a press release. “Parents, public health experts and clinicians must rally to address this problem. There is a critical need for clinical workforce training to support clinic and school- based education, screening, prevention and early intervention.”  

Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute on Drug and Abuse.  


About 44% of High School Seniors Who Misuse Prescription Drugs have Multiple Drug Sources. ScienceDaily. Published July 17, 2019. Accessed July 23, 2019.  


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