The role of traumatic event history in non-medical use of prescription drugs among a nationally representative sample of US adolescents

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;51(1):84-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02134.x. Epub 2009 Aug 6.


Background: Building on previous research with adolescents that examined demographic variables and other forms of substance abuse in relation to non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD), the current study examined potentially traumatic events, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other substance use, and delinquent behavior as potential correlates of past-year non-medical use of prescription drugs.

Method: A nationally representative sample of 3,614 non-institutionalized, civilian, English-speaking adolescents (aged 12-17 years) residing in households with a telephone was selected. Demographic characteristics, traumatic event history, mental health, and substance abuse variables were assessed. NMUPD was assessed by asking if, in the past year, participants had used a prescription drug in a non-medical manner. Multivariable logistic regressions were conducted for each theoretically derived predictor set. Significant predictors from each set were then entered into a final multivariable logistic regression to determine significant predictors of past-year NMUPD.

Results: NMUPD was endorsed by 6.7% of the sample (n = 242). The final multivariable model showed that lifetime history of delinquent behavior, other forms of substance use/abuse, history of witnessed violence, and lifetime history of PTSD were significantly associated with increased likelihood of NMUPD.

Conclusions: Risk reduction efforts targeting NMUPD among adolescents who have witnessed significant violence, endorsed abuse of other substances and delinquent behavior, and/or endorsed PTSD are warranted. Interventions for adolescents with history of violence exposure or PTSD, or those adjudicated for delinquent behavior, should include treatment or prevention modules that specifically address NMUPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • Prevalence
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Prescription Drugs