A study published in the April 2017 issue of the journal Pediatrics (published online March 20) found a strong correlation between medical and non-medical opioid use among adolescents, particularly boys.
For those who had abused the drugs, they were generally prescribed opioids by a doctor first.
Sean Esteban McCabe, PhD, 204 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and colleagues examined results from the Monitoring the Future study, a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample of US high school seniors attending approximately 135 public and private schools from 1976 to 2015.
The researcher found that one-fourth of high school seniors self-reported medical or non-medical use of prescription opioids and most adolescents who report non-medical use of opioids have a history of medical use of prescription opioids.
The study revealed a recent decline in non-medical use of prescription opioids that coincides with similar declines in medical use, and researchers are hopeful these declines are due to enhanced vigilance in prescribing opioids that will lead to a reduction in opioid-related consequences.
The authors said that due to this correlation between prescription and non-prescription opioid use in adolescents, healthcare professionals who prescribe opioids to adolescents should be concerned, but that more research is needed to examine the associations between medical use of prescription opioids, non-medical use, and opioid use disorders over the lifespan.
In an accompanying commentary, David A. Rosen MD, and Pamela J. Murray, MD, Department of Anesthesia and Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia, wrote: “The study by McCabe et al has the same limitations as all large self-report surveys, including the potential for biased reporting…We are heartened to see a recent decrease, but we see it as a measured improvement. We understand that the appropriate use of opioids to manage pain can be helpful for our patients, but we must continue to search for solutions to the current crisis. Possible interventions include better education of our patients and families when we prescribe these drugs, better drug regulation, development of new affordable approaches to pain management that have lower potential for abuse, and accessible and affordable treatment programs for those already afflicted.”