Adolescents' access to their own prescription medications in the home

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Aug;53(2):260-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.02.012. Epub 2013 May 14.


Purpose: The objective of this descriptive study was to determine adolescents' access to their own medications at home, specifically prescription pain, stimulant, antianxiety, and sedative medications.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with a cohort of 501 adolescents from two southeastern Michigan school districts. Participants were asked what medications had been prescribed to them during the previous 6 months; if they had received prescription medications, they were asked in-depth questions about them, including how medications were stored and supervised at home.

Results: The sample was comprised of adolescents in the 8th and 9th grades, and 50.9% were male. Participants were primarily white (72.9%, n = 365) or African-American (21.6%, n = 108). Slightly less than half of the adolescents (45.9%, n = 230) reported having been prescribed medications in the previous 6 months. Of this group, 14.3% (n = 33) had been prescribed pain medications, 9.6% (n = 22) stimulants, 1.7% (n = 4) antianxiety medications, and .9% (n = 2) sedatives. In total, 57 adolescents were prescribed medications in the pain, stimulant, antianxiety, or sedative categories (including controlled medications), and the majority (73.7%, n = 42) reported that they had unsupervised access to medications with abuse potential.

Conclusions: The majority of adolescents who were prescribed medications in the pain, stimulant, antianxiety, or sedative categories during the previous 6 months had unsupervised access to them at home. It is critical that clinicians educate parents and patients about the importance of proper storage and disposal of medications, particularly those with abuse potential.

Keywords: Adolescents; Controlled medications; Diversion; Epidemiology; Interview; Medication storage; Parental monitoring; Parental supervision; Prescription drugs; Prescription medications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Drug Storage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Prescription Drug Misuse*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives