Youth Opioid Use

When most people think about the opioid crisis, they imagine it mainly involving adults. However, youth opioid use is also a serious thing. In fact, there’s a few reasons in particular why younger people might start abusing opioids…

Youth Opioid Use: Prevailing Factors

Usage rates

In general, opioid abuse is one of the fastest growing issues in the United States. Sadly, younger people can also abuse these opioids as well. In 2016, 3.6% of those ages 12-17 had reported that they misused opioids. For those who were 18-25, this percentage was twice as high. Most of this misuse is due to prescription pills, rather than alternatives like heroin.

Fortunately, misuse rates are going down, especially for those in high school. For example, among high school seniors, abuse rates peaked in 2004 at 9.5%. By 2018, these rates had been lowered all the way to 3.4%. Still, overdose deaths are an issue; half of the 4,235 youth overdose deaths in 2015 were due to pill abuse.

Risk factors

The risks factors behind youth opioid use are both similar and different to those for adults. Chronic pain is the most common reason for youth abuse, much like with adults. For younger people, usually it’s something like a sports injury which leads to a doctor giving them an opioid prescription.

However, there are also some other unique reasons. Many younger users of opioids reported that they got their pills from close friends or relatives. In fact, those who have family members that abuse opioids are at a higher risk of abuse themselves. Also, there’s school-related factors, as kids who either struggle in school or are bullied are also at a higher risk of abuse.

Preventing abuse

There’s a number of ways to help prevent youth opioid use. For starters, pain management through medication for younger people should be cautious. Doctors have been more receptive to alternative pain treatments rather than just prescribing opioids, in order to help keep these pills out of the hands of younger people.

The home environment also plays a big role. Youth who have strong connections with their parents, and are informed of the risks these pills come with, have much lower rates of abuse. Therefore, parents should also talk to their kids about these pills to help keep them safe.