The misuse of prescription opioid analgesics by young persons has garnered significant news-media coverage and created much concern, but there has been inadequate attention focused on the underlying motives for such behaviors. A new study among adolescent students revealed that most of the alleged medication misuse was for treating legitimate pain; however, there are some confusing aspects of this investigation that muddle the interpretation and usefulness of outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 2,964 students in Detroit, Michigan (grades 7-12; 51% female) during 2011 to 2012 to assess motives for medical misuse of prescription opioids, as well as substance abuse and diversion behaviors [McCabe et al. 2013]. “Medical misuse” of Rx opioids was defined as “the use of prescribed opioids by a patient with a prescription for an opioid analgesic who uses the prescription in a manner not intended by the prescriber (eg, higher or more frequent doses, using intentionally to get high, or coingesting with alcohol or other drugs).” Whereas, “nonmedical use” of the drugs was defined as any use of someone else's prescription opioids, whether for pain relief, to get high, or in conjunction with other drugs.