In this fact sheet, authors Shannon Monnat and Khary Rigg examine prescription painkiller abuse for over 32,000 youth aged 12–17 using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual nationally representative survey of the non-institutionalized U.S. population. They report that over 1.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 (4.7 percent of this population) abused prescription painkillers in 2014. Prescription painkiller abuse was more common among rural than urban adolescents. In 2014, 8.6 percent of rural adolescents, 8.1 percent of adolescents in small urban areas, and 6.5 percent of adolescents in large urban areas reported ever abusing prescription pain relievers.
Painkiller abuse is often a pathway to heroin use, particularly when painkillers become too expensive or difficult to acquire. The authors conclude that whether today’s rural teen painkiller abusers will become tomorrow’s rural adult heroin addicts remains an open question. The answer depends on how quickly and resolutely government leaders and public health professionals address the current painkiller problem.
National Fact Sheet No. 33
Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire
Monnat, Shannon M. and Rigg, Khary K., "Rural Adolescents Are More Likely Than Their Urban Peers to Abuse Prescription Painkillers" (2015). The Carsey School of Public Policy at the Scholars' Repository. Paper 256.
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