WEDNESDAY, Nov. 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Prescription opioid use among teens and young adults is higher than expected, with most obtaining the drugs from friends and family, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in PLOS Medicine.

Joel D. Hudgins, M.D., from Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues used data from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to estimate the prevalence of opioid use, misuse, use disorder, and additional substance use among 27,857 adolescents (aged 12 to 17 years) and 28,213 young adults (aged 18 to 25 years).

The researchers found that 27.5 percent of respondents (corresponding to 32.8 million individuals) used prescription opioids in the previous year, including 21 percent of adolescents and 32.2 percent of young adults. Use of any prescription opioid was significantly higher in female versus male adolescents and young adults (30.3 versus 24.8 percent). Non-Hispanic whites and blacks were more likely to have had any opioid use versus Hispanics (28.9, 28.1, and 25.8 percent, respectively). Opioid misuse was reported by 3.8 percent of adolescents and 7.8 percent of young adults. More than half of those misusing opioids (55.7 percent) obtained them from friends or relatives, 25.4 percent obtained them from the health care system, and 18.9 percent obtained them through other means. A high prevalence of prior cocaine (35.5 percent), hallucinogen (49.4 percent), heroin (8.7 percent), and inhalant (30.4 percent) use was seen among those reporting opioid misuse. Tobacco (55.5 percent), alcohol (66.9 percent), and cannabis (49.9 percent) were also frequently used in the past month.

“The percentages were higher than we expected,” Hudgins said in a statement. “They really highlight how common use of prescription opioids is in this vulnerable population.”

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