What Drives Kids To Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Non-medical prescription drug abuse is on the rise in young people, and a new study from the University of Cincinnati could shed light on what could increase or lower the risk of such abuse.

The research team, led by Keith King, professor of health promotion, focused on 54,000 students — 7th through 12th grade — in the Greater Cincinnati area, including the Tristate regions of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The data they used was from the 2009-2020 Pride Survey on Adolescent Drug Use in America, collected by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.

The researchers found that 13.7 percent of the students reported using prescription drugs without a doctor´s prescription during their lifetime. They found that males were more likely to abuse drugs than females, and high school students more likely than junior high students. Hispanic students were found to be more likely to use nonmedical prescription drugs compared with white or African-American students.

Pro-social behaviors, including strong connections with parents, teachers, and peers who disapproved of substance abuse, were found to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse as well. “œStudents at every grade level who reported high levels of parent and peer disapproval of use were at decreased odds for lifetime nonmedical prescription drug use,“ according to the study.

Conversely, the researchers found that relationships with drug-using peers increased the odds of youth substance abuse. The use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana among peers were associated with the increased use of nonmedical prescription drugs for all students.