The misuse of prescription opioids is a significant contributor to the overall prevalence of opioid addiction in this country and the unfortunate consequences that can ensue. What is known about the characteristics of adolescents who misuse prescription opioids? Bhatia et al. (10.1542/peds.2019-2470) looked into that question and analyzed data from the 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (n=14,765). This survey provides a cross-sectional look at high school students who were asked if they ever misused a prescription for opioids and what associated risky behaviors were they also self-reporting including risky driving, violent, sexual, other substance use, and suicidal behaviors compared to those who have not misused opioid prescription medications.
The results may be what you expected but are important, nonetheless. 14% of the teens noted that they had misused prescription opioids at some point in their lives and in doing so were more likely to have engaged in at each one of the 22 risky behaviors surveyed compared to adolescents who had not misused prescription opioids
Since this is cross-sectional, we cannot discern whether risky behaviors led to prescription overuse or vice versa, but the authors provide a great discussion of why these behaviors are associated with each other, and how to use these findings from a prevention standpoint to intervene earlier in both other associated risky behaviors as well as how we administer prescription opioids to adolescent patients who may need them for pain. For example, they call for our providing far fewer pills that we may have written for in the past. You’ll get a bigger dose of some important findings and take-home lessons by linking to the study and reading it for yourself and, in turn, the higher-risk adolescent patients you care for so you can lower the risk of these behaviors or of overuse of opioids in these teens.