Nonmedical prescription opiate use (NPOU) and nonmedical prescription sedative use (NPSU) are serious public health concerns. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence and emergency department (ED) visit characteristics and other correlates associated with past-year NPOU and NPSU among adolescents and young adults using the ED.


Participants aged 14 to 20 presenting to the ED at the University of Michigan Medical Center between September 2010 and September 2011 were systematically recruited. A computerized self-report screening survey with validated items measuring past-year NPOU, NPSU, substance use, and violence was delivered to participants, and a retrospective chart review was performed.


Of the 2135 participants (86.0% response rate), 222 (10.4%) reported either NPOU or NPSU. Among the 185 (8.7%) participants that reported NPOU, 14.6% had a current home prescription for an opioid and among the 115 (5.4%) with NPSU, 12.3% had a current home prescription for a sedative. After controlling for demographics (age, gender, race, public assistance), correlates of NPOU or NPSU included other substance use, and drinking and driving or riding with a drinking driver. Additional correlates of NPOU included receiving an intravenous opioid in the ED and for NPSU, dating violence, presenting to the ED for a noninjury complaint, and previous ED visit in the past year.


Nearly 1 in 10 young people who use the ED for care report NPOU or NPSU, and only 12.3% and 14.6% report having current home prescriptions for sedatives and opioids. The ED represents a key location for screening and intervention efforts.

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