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Perceived Harm of Prescription Meds Affects Non-Medical Use

Does not stop college students with high sensation-seeking behavior

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- College students who perceive the non-medical use of prescription drugs as harmful are less likely to use them, although this does not deter students with high sensation-seeking behavior, researchers report in the September issue of Prevention Science.

Amelia M. Arria, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., interviewed 1,253 first-year college students on their non-medical use of prescription drugs and their perceived harmfulness.

After 12 months, the researchers found that 25.2 percent of students perceived great possible harm from occasional non-medical use of prescription stimulants and 27.8 percent perceived harm from non-medical use of analgesics. After taking demographics into account, low perceived harmfulness and high sensation-seeking was an independent risk factor for non-medical use of prescription drugs. High perceived harmfulness was protective against non-medical drug use with the exception of prescription analgesics, the investigators report. Given the opportunity to use prescription drugs, perceived harmfulness may distinguish non-medical users from non-users, the authors note.

"Increasing perceived harmfulness may be a viable prevention strategy for most students, but alternative approaches might need to be developed that are tailored to high sensation-seekers," Arria and colleagues conclude.

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