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Rural Teens More Likely to Abuse Prescription Drugs

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A study of national data suggests that teens in rural areas abuse prescription drugs at significantly higher rates than their urban and suburban counterparts, MedPage Today reported Nov. 1.

Researchers led by Jennifer Havens, Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., analyzed self-report data on 17,872 teens aged 12-17, collected in the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

They reported that teens in rural areas were 26 percent more likely than urban adolescents to have abused prescription drugs at some point in their lives: 10.3 percent of urban teens reported lifetime misuse of prescription drugs, compared with 11.5 percent in suburban or small metropolitan-area counties, and 13.0 percent of rural teens. 

The study’s authors noted several strategies for reducing youth misuse of prescription drugs: keeping youth in school, increasing parental involvement, and linking youth to mental health, general health, and substance abuse treatment.  

Rural youth who used prescription drugs non-medically were more likely to have dropped out of school, have a history of depression, or live in a single-parent household. 

“While we were able to identify potential targets for intervention such as increased access to health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment, this may be difficult for rural areas where such resources are in short supply or nonexistent,” wrote Havens and her colleagues.

No significant differences were found between the rural, urban, and suburban groups in their use of alcohol or illicit drugs; perhaps surprisingly, methamphetamine was among the least popular of drugs. While 40 percent of all teens had drunk alcohol, 10 percent had abused prescription drugs or tried inhalants, and 4 percent had tried hallucinogens, only 1 percent reported using meth.

The study was published online Nov. 1, 2010, in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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