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Role of educational status in reasons for non-medical use of prescription opioids among young adults

Non-medical use of prescription opioids is second behind marijuana as the most prevalent form of drug use in the United States. Young adults are at high risk for substance use and therefore prevention strategies for this population are important. Previous research has found that higher educational attainment is inversely related with prevalence of substance use. A recent study built upon this concept and analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The data included young adults aged 18-25 who reported past year non-medical use of prescription opioids as well as their reasons for use. This data also included education levels of the participants.

Analysis of the data showed overall prevalence of non-medical prescription opioid use in this population was 7.2%, and among those not in college was 8.4%. The most common reason for use was to “relieve physical pain” followed by “to feel good or get high”. The reasons did not change with educational level. This emphasizes the need to target all young adults with prevention efforts geared towards managing physical pain.

Take Away:  Non-medical prescription opioid use is more prevalent among young adults who are not in college compared to those who are. Among all young adults reporting past year use, the main reasons for doing so were to alleviate physical pain and to feel good or get high.

Peck, K.R., Parker, M.A., Sigmon, S.C. (2019). Reasons for non-medical use of prescription opioids among young adults: Role of educational status. Preventive Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.03.047

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