TUESDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The number of prescriptions for controlled medications such as opioids and stimulants has nearly doubled in adolescents and young adults since 1994.
The trend, reported in the December issue of Pediatrics, mirrors a similar increase in misuse of these drugs, with adolescents and young adults' illicit use of prescription drugs now outstripping all other illicit drug use except marijuana.
The researchers couldn't attribute the increased misuse directly to more prescriptions, but did urge both physicians and patients to be vigilant when considering the use of drugs such as Oxycontin or Ritalin.
"Our study did not look at the relationship between prescribing and misuse, but the increased prescribing increases the potential availability [of these drugs]," said study author Dr. Robert Fortuna, an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Physicians and patients need to be aware of the increased rates of prescribing, be aware of misuse and have discussions about the risks and benefits."
"In total, a controlled medication was prescribed at approximately one out of 6 [health-care visits] for young adults and one in nine for adolescents," he added. "The numbers are large."
Increased prescribing rates for controlled medications is not a new phenomenon, and many believe that some of it has to do with recent initiatives to make sure pain isn't undertreated.
"We believe we've been underusing pain medicine and sedative-hypnotic medications because we have been so concerned about the potential for abuse," said Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, director of education and training at the NYU Child Study Center in New York City.
"Increases are possibly due to changing regulations at both the federal and state levels," Fortuna agreed. "There has been an increased advocacy to t
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