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Researchers found that four out of five teens who misused prescription pain medications such as OxyContin or Vicodin by taking more than directed or using someone else's prescription cared less about getting high than they did about easing their discomfort.
Although research has shown that most teens given prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers use them properly, some young people do not. Sean McCabe and colleagues from the University of Michigan surveyed about 3,000 teens in 2011 and 2012 to determine why they abused these pain medications. They also took the teens' gender, race and ethnicity into account.
Although the majority of the teens surveyed said they took the drugs to relieve pain, the investigators noted that 30 percent of the teens who didn't take their medication as directed and 47 percent of the teens who used another person's prescription were also motivated by other factors, such as the desire to get high.
The study, published in the October issue of The Journal of Pain, also revealed that teenage girls were nearly twice as likely to have misused prescription painkillers in the past year than teenage boys. The researchers noted, however, there were no gender differences in the teens' motives for taking the medication.
Black teens were more likely than whites to not take their prescription as directed by their doctor, the study authors pointed out in a news release from the American Pain Society. Among this group, three in four reported being motivated by pain relief. The researchers noted these racial differences could be associated with poor pain management and communication, as well as lack of availability of these drugs or under-prescribing of black patients.
The researchers concluded use of narcotic painkillers by teens should be more closely monitored to identify possible abuse of these medications.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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