THURSDAY, Feb. 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — One-quarter of U.S. youth aged 12 to 17 years and 41 percent of youth aged 18 to 25 years report use of any psychoactive prescription medications, according to a study published online Feb. 3 in Family Medicine and Community Health.

Israel Agaku, Ph.D., from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, and colleagues examined the prevalence and correlates of medical use and misuse of psychoactive prescription medications among U.S. youth. Data were included for 110,556 individuals aged 12 to 25 years from the 2015 to 2018 National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

The researchers found that 25 percent of U.S. youth aged 12 to 17 years reported use of any psychoactive prescription medication assessed and 5.7 percent reported past-year use of at least two psychoactive prescription medications; for 18- to 25-year-olds, the corresponding proportions were 41 and 13.4 percent. Overall, 20.9 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 years who used any psychoactive prescription medications reported misuse and 3.4 percent had substance use disorder; the corresponding proportions among those aged 18 to 25 years were 34.7 and 4.2 percent. Past-year use was 19 percent for opioids, 7.2 percent for stimulants, 4.3 percent for tranquilizers, and 2.2 percent for sedatives among youth aged 12 to 17 years; the estimated percentage reporting misuse was 17.6, 24.2, 40.1, and 14.2 percent, respectively, and the corresponding percentages with substance use disorder were 2.6, 3.0, 7.0, and 3.6 percent.

“Having serious psychological distress was consistently associated with misuse of every assessed psychoactive prescription medication,” the authors write.

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