Use of prescribed opioids by children and adolescents: Differences between Denmark, Norway and Sweden

Eur J Pain. 2015 Sep;19(8):1095-100. doi: 10.1002/ejp.632. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Background: There are few studies on the use of opioids among children and adolescents. The aim of this study was to determine the 1-year prevalence of prescribed opioid dispensing in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and to compare gender and age differences in the use of weak and strong opioids between the three countries.

Methods: Data on the dispensing of opioids were collected from the websites of the complete national prescription databases in the three countries. All individuals aged 0-19 with at least one prescription of opioids during the study period were included.

Results: The 1-year prevalence of opioid use among young individuals aged 0-19 years increased during the study period (2006-2012) in Denmark from 2.5 to 3.4 per thousand, in Norway from 10.7 to 13.4 per thousand and in Sweden from 5.9 to 7.1 per thousand. In all three countries, more boys than girls used opioids between the ages of 0 and 10, whereas girls were the major users in the age range 11-19. Use of opioids in all three countries was dominated by weak opioids, codeine being the most dominant in Norway and Sweden and tramadol in Denmark.

Conclusions: The 1-year prevalence of prescribed opioid use among children and adolescents in Norway was far higher than in Denmark and Sweden. During the study period, an increasing use of opioids among children and adolescents was observed in all three countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid