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They conducted two studies; the first one involved more than 18,000 high school seniors. It found that about 11% of them said they misused prescription drugs in the past year, and of those, 44% had multiple sources for the drugs.
More than 70% of teens who got prescription drugs from multiple sources had a substance use disorder -- prescription medications, other drugs and alcohol -- within the previous year.
The national average of substance use disorder among teens is 5%, said researcher Sean Esteban McCabe, a professor in the University of Michigan's School of Nursing.
McCabe said a "very concerning" finding is that 30% of prescription drug misusers took their own leftover medications, with girls more likely to do so than boys. Boys were more likely to get prescription drugs from friends or to buy them.
The second study, involving nearly 104,000 12- to 17-year-olds, found that the most common sources of prescription drugs were: getting them free from friends and relatives, physician prescriptions for opioids, and buying stimulants and tranquilizers illegally.
This is the first known research to look at teen misuse of leftover medications across these three prescription drug classes, according to McCabe.
"The implications from these two studies could not be clearer," he said in a university news release.
"Parents, public health experts and clinicians must rally to address this problem. There is a critical need for clinical workforce training to support clinic and school-based education, screening, prevention and early intervention," said McCabe, co-director of the university's Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health.
"These adolescents are most in need of intervention to address their substance use and any other medical and mental health issues," added study co-author Ty Schepis, an associate professor at Texas State University.
The two studies were published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
-- Robert Preidt
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