Background: We examined gender-specific prevalences, patterns, and correlates of non-prescribed use of pain relievers - mainly opioids - in a representative sample of American adolescents (N=18,678).
Methods: Data were drawn from the public use data file of the 2005 U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey of non-institutionalized American household residents. The patterns of non-prescribed use of prescription pain relievers were examined, and logistic regression procedures were conducted to identify correlates of non-prescribed use.
Results: Approximately one in 10 adolescents aged 12-17 years reported non-prescribed use of pain relievers in their lifetime (9.3% in males and 10.3% in females). The mean age of first non-prescribed use was 13.3 years, which was similar to the mean age of first use of alcohol and marijuana but older than the age of first inhalant use. Among all non-prescribed users, 52% reported having used hydrocodone products (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, and Lorcet Plus, and hydrocodone), 50% had used propoxyphene (Darvocet or Darvon) or codeine (Tylenol with codeine), and 24% had used oxycodone products (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox). Approximately one quarter (26%) of all non-prescribed users had never used other non-prescribed or illicit drugs. There were gender variations in correlates of non-prescribed use.
Conclusions: Use of non-prescribed pain relievers occurs early in adolescence. Research is needed to understand whether early use of non-prescribed pain relievers is related to later drug use.