Nonmedical Prescription Pain Medication Use Peaks at Age 16

Smaller peaks in pain med use to get high or for nonmedical purposes seen at 12-14, 19-21 years

THURSDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Use of prescription pain relievers to get high or for other nonmedical purposes (extramedical use) peaks around age 16 years, according to a study published online May 7 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

From 2004 to 2008, Elizabeth A. Meier, Ph.D., of Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey of 138,729 adolescents aged 12 to 21 years to identify when extramedical use of prescription pain relievers peaks.

The researchers found that the risk of beginning extramedical use of prescription pain relievers was highest when youth were 16 years of age, when an estimated 2 to 3 percent became new users. At ages 12 to 14 years and 19 to 21 years, smaller peaks were noted.

"Appreciating that recent school survey data provide modest external confirmation of this project's nationally representative sample evidence, we draw attention to the timing of potential prevention and intervention approaches given the observed peak risk during midadolescence and a rise and fall of risk estimates before and after midadolescence," the authors write.

One author is a consultant for CRS Associates Inc. on topics relating to prescription opioids, including products by Reckitt-Benckhiser and Purdue Pharma.

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