ANN ARBOR, Mich. With prescription drug abuse at epidemic levels nationwide, and overdoses killing more people than auto accidents in many states, a new University of Michigan study provides striking new data about the misuse of potent prescription painkillers and sedatives by teens and young adults.
In all, 10.4 percent of the teens and young adults treated in the emergency room for any reason admitted to misusing a prescription painkiller or sedative at least once in the last year, the study finds. That included taking the drugs to get high, taking more of the drug than was prescribed to them, or taking drugs prescribed to someone else.
What's more, most of this use was apparently illicit: The vast majority of those who admitted this use had no prescriptions for these drugs on their medical records.
The study also raises the possibility that emergency room visits, for any reason, could become important occasions for detecting and addressing prescription drug problems among young people.
The results are published in a new online-first paper in the journal Pediatrics, by a team from the U-M Medical School and U-M Injury Center. They draw their data from a large, confidential, tablet-based survey of 2,135 people between the ages of 14 and 20 years, conducted in 2010 and 2011 during visits to the U-M Health System's adult and pediatric emergency departments.
It's the first time this issue has been studied in an emergency department setting even though ER doctors often prescribe opioid painkillers and sedatives for emergency use. They also care for many patients who have accidentally or intentionally overdosed on these drugs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 100 deaths per day, and around 700,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year, result from prescription drug overdoses.
School-based studies have found rates of misuse among young people to be a
|Contact: Kara Gavin|
University of Michigan Health System