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Pediatrics. 2006 Dec;118(6):2472-80.

Adolescents' motivations to abuse prescription medications.

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Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.



Our goals were to (1) determine adolescents' motivations (reasons) for engaging in the nonmedical (illicit) use of 4 classes of prescription medications and (2) examine whether motivations were associated with a higher risk for substance abuse problems.


The 2005 sample (N = 1086) was derived from one ethnically diverse school district in southeastern Michigan and included 7th- through 12th-grade students.


Data were collected by using a self-administered, Web-based survey that included questions about drug use and the motivations to engage in nonmedical use of prescription medication.


Twelve percent of the respondents had engaged in nonmedical use of opioid pain medications in the past year: 3% for sleeping, 2% as a sedative and/or for anxiety, and 2% as stimulants. The reasons for engaging in the nonmedical use of prescription medications varied by drug classification. For opioid analgesics, when the number of motives increased, so too did the likelihood of a positive Drug Abuse Screening Test score. For every additional motive endorsed, the Drug Abuse Screening Test increased by a factor of 1.8. Two groups of students were compared (at-risk versus self-treatment); those who endorsed multiple motivations for nonmedical use of opioids (at-risk group) were significantly more likely to have elevated Drug Abuse Screening Test scores when compared with those who were in the self-treatment group. Those in the at-risk group also were significantly more likely to engage in marijuana and alcohol use.


The findings from this exploratory study warrant additional research because several motivations for the nonmedical use of prescription medications seem associated with a greater likelihood of substance abuse problems.

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