Among U.S. adolescents, misuse of prescription painkillers peaks at age 16, earlier than thought, a new large survey analysis reveals.
"What our findings suggest is that if we wait until the last year of high school or college to take some kind of action that could prevent the misuse of opioid painkillers, it'll be a case of too little, too late," cautioned study co-author James Anthony, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Many experts consider "extramedical" painkiller abuse -- taking pain drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) to get high rather than to relieve extreme pain -- the country's most serious drug challenge. Some kids had already misused these drugs by age 13 or 14, or eighth grade, the researchers found.
The authors found that while roughly one in 60 kids between 12 and 21 initiates prescription pain reliever abuse at some point in that age range, the risk for doing so peaks at about 2.5 percent by age 16.
The study appears in the online edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.