Nonmedical use of prescription opioids among teenagers in the United States: trends and correlates

J Adolesc Health. 2005 Jul;37(1):44-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.02.013.


Purpose: This article reports on trends and correlates of the nonmedical use of prescription opioids among youth.

Methods: Secondary analyses of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health were performed on youths, ages 12 to 17.

Results: Analyses revealed evidence of an emerging epidemic of opioid misuse among teenagers. Sub-groups of youth at particularly high risk include females, blacks, those of lower socio-economic status, and those who hold favorable attitudes toward illicit drugs, have detached parents, or have friends who use illicit drugs. Respondents' own use of other illicit drugs is the strongest predictor of their nonmedical use of prescription opioids.

Conclusions: Nonmedical use of prescription opioids is a recurrent epidemic and valuable lessons from past epidemics of this nature can be learned if historical data are studied. Prevention campaigns should target groups at risk for substance abuse and focus on improving family bonds and peer-resistance skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / trends
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Narcotics*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Narcotics