What Drives Kids To Abuse Prescription Drugs?

April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Non-medical prescription drug abuse is on the rise in young people, and a new study from the University of Cincinnati could shed light on what could increase or lower the risk of such abuse.

The research team, led by Keith King, professor of health promotion, focused on 54,000 students — 7th through 12th grade — in the Greater Cincinnati area, including the Tristate regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The data they used was from the 2009-2020 Pride Survey on Adolescent Drug Use in America, collected by the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati.

The researchers found that 13.7 percent of the students reported using prescription drugs without a doctor´s prescription during their lifetime. They found that males were more likely to abuse the drugs than females, and high school students more likely than junior high students. Hispanic students were found to be more likely to use nonmedical prescription drugs compared with white or African-American students.

Pro-social behaviors, including strong connections with parents, teachers and peers who disapproved of substance abuse, were found to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse as well. “Students at every grade level who reported high levels of parent and peer disapproval of use were at decreased odds for lifetime nonmedical prescription drug use,” according to the study.

Conversely, the researchers found that relationships with drug-using peers increased the odds of youth substance abuse. Use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana among peers were associated with increased use of nonmedical prescription drugs for all students.

“While much research has examined factors associated with overall substance use among youth, relatively few studies have specifically investigated risk factors, protective factors and sex/grade differences for youth involvement in nonmedical prescription use,” write the authors. “Identifying specific risk and protective factors for males, females, junior high and high school students would help to clarify prevention needs and enhance prevention programming.”

According to the study, national research indicates that young people are turning to prescription drugs in the mistaken notion that they are safer than street drugs. Even short-term abuse of prescription drugs, however, can cause cardiovascular and respiratory distress, seizures and death. The researchers suggest that future research should focus on young people´s use of specific prescription drugs.

The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention.