Survey Finds Teens Divided on Beliefs and Attitudes of Prescription Drug Abuse

drug label
drug label
A survey sought to clarify teens' perceptions of recreational use of prescription drugs.
The following article features coverage from PAINWeek 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Click here to read more of Clinical Pain Advisor‘s conference coverage.

LAS VEGAS — The majority of high school teens understand the risks of prescription drug abuse, but almost half may not change or stop their usage habits, according to results from a survey-based study presented at PAINWeek 2017.1

Prescription opioids are considered highly addictive drugs and are also one of the most widely abused prescription medications. Drug abuse of prescription opioids contributes to substantial rates of morbidity and mortality in developed nations.2

Understanding the factors that may contribute to opioid abuse may provide a greater understanding about how to prevent abuse and overdose, especially in teens and young adults.

Megan Nalamachu and colleagues administered a 12-question survey that included items related to knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes associated with prescription drug abuse to Kansas City high school students between the ages of 14 and 18.

Of the survey participants, 62% said they had used an opioid prescription medication recreationally or knew someone who had. Stimulant usage was reported in 71.1% of the teens surveyed. The source of these prescriptions appeared to be either a family member, a healthcare provider, or someone the responder personally knew. Approximately 62% responded that they never take stimulants and opioids in combination or with alcohol.  

A surprising finding was that 95.6% of survey responders knew about the side effects associated with prescription drug abuse, but only 42.2% reported receiving drug abuse education. If provided with more education, 55.6% said they may alter their usage behavior. Approximately half of participants preferred classroom-based educational programs and lectures. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube, were the preferred educational medium in 22.2% and 11.1% of responders, respectively.

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The researchers of this survey-based study plan to use these findings and future survey results to “seek an educational grant to develop a comprehensive educational program and implement it in schools across the country with teenage ambassadors.”

Read more of Clinical Pain Advisor‘s coverage of PAINWeek 2017 by visiting the conference page.

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  1. Nalamachu M, Gondi S, Harkins P. Understanding the perspective of young adults regarding prescription drug abuse to develop an effective educational platform. Presented at: PainWeek 2017; September 5-9, 2017; Las Vegas, NV. Poster 67.
  2. Ling W, Mooney L, Hillhouse M. Prescription opioid abuse, pain and addiction: clinical issues and implications. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011;30(3):300-305.