Warning: More Teens Misusing Prescription Drugs

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Although several reports indicate prescription drug abuse is actually on the decline among adolescents, that doesn’t mean our youth is using prescribed medications properly.

A new analysis from Quest Diagnostics shows that half of patients between ages 10 and 17 are misusing their medications, which increases health risks and their chance at developing an addiction problem.

The Misuse of Medications

Misuse was defined as skipping doses of prescribed medications or combining non-prescribed medications. The findings came from the data on 2.5 million de-identified test results from patients of all ages in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Important findings of the study included:

  • Adolescents who skipped doses of their medications increased from 40 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2014.
  • Of the above group, 35 percent was combining drugs without the oversight or approval of a clinician, compared to 32 percent in 2011.
  • Marijuana and opiates were the most commonly misused drugs among those between the ages of 10 and 29.
  • Amphetamines and opiates were the most misused among children under the age of 10.

More Problems

The rise in misuse of opiates is also particularly concerning since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved Oxycontin use for children ages 11-16.

…our data is also a stark reminder that diligent monitoring of prescription drug regimens in young patients is absolutely critical.”-Leland F. McClure“Having more options for pain relief is a great potential benefit for children experiencing significant pain,” said Leland F. McClure, PhD, director, medical science liaison, Quest Diagnostics. “But our data is also a stark reminder that diligent monitoring of prescription drug regimens in young patients is absolutely critical.”

However, parents should be comforted to know that while misuse may be on the rise, prescription drug abuse among adolescents has declined in recent years. Findings from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey show that, over 12 months, non-medical Vicodin use among high school seniors has dropped in the last five years from 9.7 percent to 4.8 percent, while past year use of narcotics other than heroin dropped from 7.1 percent to 6.1 percent during that same period.

Taking Action

If you’re concerned that your child is either misusing or abusing prescription drugs, talk to them about the dangers of doing so. You are likely their first source of knowledge on the subject.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that teens who learned about drug risks from their parents were 50 percent less likely to use them, so you have far more of an impact than you may realize.
Additional Reading: War on Opiates: Getting to Know the CARA Bill

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