Teen painkiller misuse predicts adult drug abuse

A new study about substance abuse confirms why parents should properly dispose of leftover prescription painkillers: When teens use codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes, they become at risk to develop a substance use disorder by age 35.

On the other hand, appropriate medical use of opioid-providing pain relief during adolescence doesn’t increase substance abuse risk, says Sean Esteban McCabe, a research professor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.

For the study, published in the journal Pain, researchers used data from the national longitudinal Monitoring the Future study which tracks alcohol and other drug use in more than 4,000 high school seniors from graduating classes (1976-1996) to adulthood (1993-2013).

Survey shows lots of people save leftover painkillers

Nearly one-fourth of the participants indicated lifetime medical use of prescription opioids or nonmedical use of prescription opioids at age 18. More than 90 percent of those who reported nonmedical use of opioids at age 18 did not continue misusing them through age 35.

However, about 53 percent of adolescents who reported only nonmedical use of prescription opioids at age 18 reported two or more substance use disorder symptoms at age 35. Further, more than a quarter of teens who reported medical use of prescription opioids also had a history of nonmedical use of prescription opioids at age 18—which was linked to an increased risk of opioid misuse and substance abuse in adulthood.

The association between medical use of prescription opioids and subsequent nonmedical use of prescription opioids could be driven partially by the fact that more than a third of young people who report nonmedical use of prescription opioids used leftover medications from their own previous prescriptions.

“These findings indicate to health professionals and parents that enhanced vigilance is needed when prescribing opioids and monitoring their use among adolescents to reduce subsequent prescription opioid misuse and substance use disorders,” McCabe says.

Source: University of Michigan

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Source: Futurity