Characterizing Adolescent Prescription Misusers: A Population-Based Study

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;47(7):745-754. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e318172ef0ld.


Objective: To examine the risk factors associated with adolescent (ages 12-17) misuse of opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives using a nationally representative sample. The characteristics associated with symptoms of abuse and/or dependence related to prescription medication misuse among adolescents were also analyzed.

Method: These questions were addressed using the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Screening and full interview response rates were 91% and 76%, respectively, and data from 18,678 adolescents were used. Regression analyses, using population-based weights, were performed to identify characteristics associated with past year misuse of prescription medications and the presence of past year abuse or dependence symptoms related to misuse.

Results: Among adolescents, 8.2% misused a medication and 3.0% endorsed symptoms of a substance use disorder related to prescription medication misuse in the past year. The predictors of misuse from multivariate analyses were poorer academic performance (odds ratio [OR] 2.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.37-3.52), past year major depression (OR 3.1, 95% CI 2.62-3.74), higher risk-taking levels (OR 3.6, 95% CI 3.13-4.20), past year use of alcohol (OR 7.3, 95% CI 6.19-8.59), cigarettes (OR 8.6, 95% CI 7.43-9.91), marijuana (OR 9.9, 95% CI 8.53-11.44), or past year use of cocaine or an inhalant (OR 10.7, 95% CI 8.98-12.72). Past year major depression (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.03-2.25), past year cocaine or inhalant use (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.21-2.41), or >or=10 episodes of past year prescription misuse (OR 3.0, 95% CI 2.13-4.17) was associated with having symptoms of abuse of or dependence among adolescent prescription medication misusers.

Conclusions: These risk factors could help clinicians identify those at risk for significant problems due to prescription misuse, allowing for prevention or early treatment in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Psychotropic Drugs*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States


  • Psychotropic Drugs