Researchers have found links between teen dating violence and nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD).
However, males and females experience this violence differently, according to the study “Physical and Sexual Dating Violence and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs” (Clayton HB, et al. Pediatrics. Nov. 20, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-2289).
Previous research has shown dating violence is associated with risky behaviors, but studies linking it to NMUPD have been limited. Roughly 16.8% of high school students have use prescription drugs to get high, according to the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).
To study possible connections between dating violence and NMUPD, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 2015 YRBS data on more than 10,000 high school students who said they had dated during the past 12 months.
They grouped the teens into four categories based on their experiences as victims — no dating violence, physical violence only, sexual violence only or both physical and sexual violence.
Roughly 21.4% of females and 9.6% of males reported experiencing dating violence in the past year.
The study found that for females, NMUPD was associated with physical dating violence or having experienced both physical and sexual violence. For males, NMUPD was associated with sexual dating violence or having experienced both physical and sexual violence.
“It is likely that the association operates in both directions, as research has suggested that substance use behaviors may increase the risk for violence victimization, but also that youth who have been victimized may be more likely to engage in substance use behaviors,” authors wrote.
The associations held up when adjusting for other substance use. The team also found the frequency of the violence impacted ties to NMUPD.
They said the link between NMUPD and dating violence should be considered when screening adolescents and when undertaking local violence or substance use prevention efforts. The author of a related commentary said the two may “share common causes.”
“Clinicians and frontline providers serving adolescents should recognize that young people at risk for substance use, including NMUPD, are likely to have exposure to unhealthy and abusive relationships, which can further exacerbate substance misuse,” Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, wrote. “Positive youth development approaches known to reduce adolescent substance abuse and violence may be especially pertinent for tackling this nexus of NMUPD and DV (dating violence) victimization.”