Recent Decline in Prescription Opioid Use Among U.S. Teens

Lifetime prevalence of use peaked in 1989, 2002, and remained stable until decline in 2013 to 2015


FRIDAY, March 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- For adolescents, medical and nonmedical use of prescription opioids has declined in recent years, according to a study published online March 20 in Pediatrics.

Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the Monitoring the Future study of adolescents to examine self-reported medical and nonmedical use of prescription opioids using 40 cohorts of nationally representative samples of high school seniors from 1976 to 2015.

The researchers observed peaks in lifetime prevalence of medical use of prescription opioids in both 1989 and 2002, and prevalence remained stable until a decline in 2013 to 2015. Lifetime nonmedical use of prescription opioids was less prevalent, and during the 40-year study period was strongly associated with medical use of prescription opioids. Adolescents who reported both medical and nonmedical use of prescription opioids were more likely to have medical use before initiation of nonmedical use.

"Prescription opioid exposure is common among U.S. adolescents. Long-term trends indicate that one-fourth of high school seniors self-reported medical or nonmedical use of prescription opioids," the authors write. "Sociodemographic differences and risky patterns involving medical and nonmedical use of prescription opioids should be taken into consideration in clinical practice to improve opioid analgesic prescribing and reduce adverse consequences associated with prescription opioid use among adolescents."

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