MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Among U.S. adolescents, misuse of prescription painkillers peaks at age 16, earlier than thought, a new large survey analysis reveals.
"What our findings suggest is that if we wait until the last year of high school or college to take some kind of action that could prevent the misuse of opioid painkillers, it'll be a case of too little, too late," cautioned study co-author James Anthony, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Many experts consider "extramedical" painkiller abuse -- taking pain drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) to get high rather than to relieve extreme pain -- the country's most serious drug challenge. Some kids had already misused these drugs by age 13 or 14, or eighth grade, the researchers found.
Anthony and his colleagues discuss their work, co-funded by the university and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the May 7 online edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Concerned by rising rates of painkiller prescriptions and related overdoses, the team analyzed information gathered between 2004 and 2008 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The information was self-reported by nearly 120,000 males and females between 12 and 21 years old.
The authors found that while roughly one in 60 kids between 12 and 21 initiates prescription pain reliever abuse at some point in that age range, the risk for doing so peaks at about 2.5 percent by age 16.
Approximately one in 30 to 40 young people initiated such abuse at 16, a rate higher than that reported by the 12- to 14-year-old set or 19- to 21-year-olds, the researchers said.
All of the respondents reported that up until the year they participated in the poll they had not
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