Study: Many teens abusing painkillers, sedatives

November 1, 2013

More than 10% of teens and young adults admit misusing a prescription painkiller or sedative, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

More than 10% of teens and young adults admit misusing a prescription painkiller or sedative, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

The survey included more than 2,100 people aged 14 to 20 who visited University of Michigan Health System emergency departments in 2010 and 2011.

More than one in 10 of the teens and young adults said they’d taken prescription drugs to get high, taken more than the recommended amount of a drug that was prescribed to them, and had taken drugs prescribed to someone else. A majority of the teens and young adults did not have prescriptions for the drugs they misused, according to the study.

Dr. Lauren Whiteside of the University of Washington led the study. Whiteside said emergency rooms present opportunities to detect and treat drug problems. She also said ER physicians must be aware that some patients come to the ER looking for drugs to misuse or divert.

According to the study, patients who misused painkillers and sedatives were more likely to receive an intravenous opioid painkiller during their ER visit, more likely to have also abused alcohol and non-prescription drugs, and more likely to have used marijuana in the past year.