Teens who are prescribed pain relievers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are at "notable risk" for abusing opioid drugs, says a University of Michigan researcher.
Carol Boyd, U-M professor of nursing and women's studies and a research scientist at the U-M Addiction Research Center, says there are many reasons why adolescents misuse opioid prescriptions—including increased tolerance to the medication, which can lead to continued use of the drug after the initial prescription is finished.
"There is evidence that once an adolescent has been medically exposed to a potentially addictive medication, adolescents are more likely to engage in nonmedical use and diversion, including buying, selling and giving away pills," said Boyd.
The study found that all teens who use prescribed opioids had substance use and behavioral disorders that, while not as severe as nonmedical sensation seekers, were significantly higher than youth who had never received a prescription for an opioid painkiller.
When factoring in gender differences among medical users, girls with opioid prescriptions were at greater risk for some behavioral problems that were different from their male counterparts.