HealthDay News — According to a study published in Pediatrics, medical and non-medical use of prescription opioids has declined in recent years for adolescents.

Sean Esteban McCabe, PhD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the Monitoring the Future study of adolescents to examine self-reported medical and non-medical use of prescription opioids using 40 cohorts of nationally representative samples of high school seniors from 1976 to 2015.

The researchers observed peaks in lifetime prevalence of medical use of prescription opioids in both 1989 and 2002, and prevalence remained stable until a decline in 2013 to 2015. 

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Lifetime non-medical use of prescription opioids was less prevalent, and during the 40-year study period was strongly associated with medical use of prescription opioids. Adolescents who reported both medical and non-medical use of prescription opioids were more likely to have medical use before initiation of non-medical use.

“Prescription opioid exposure is common among US adolescents. Long-term trends indicate that one-fourth of high school seniors self-reported medical or non-medical use of prescription opioids,” the authors write. 

“Sociodemographic differences and risky patterns involving medical and non-medical use of prescription opioids should be taken into consideration in clinical practice to improve opioid analgesic prescribing and reduce adverse consequences associated with prescription opioid use among adolescents.”


McCabe SE, et al. “Trends in Medical and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Opioids Among US Adolescents: 1976–2015.” Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2387 [Epub ahead of print]

Rosen DA and Murray PJ. “Clues to the Opioid Crisis in Monitoring the Future but Still Looking for Solutions.” Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-0209 [Epub ahead of print]

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