Non-medical prescription opioid use among US youth: 2015-2018

R. Andrew Yockey, Keith A. King, Rebecca A. Vidourek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Non-medical opioid use (NMOU) is a national public health concern with no signs of abating. While much research has focused on opioid use among adults, significant gaps exist on NMOU among youth. Objective: The present study sought to identify the prevalence and correlates to NMOU use among a national sample of US youth ages 12–17 years old over multiple years of data. Methods: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a repeated, cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of youth and adults in the US, was analyzed. Aggregated NSDUH data (2015–2018) was used to analyze NMOU among 54,866 youth (28,032 males, 26,834 females). Weighted analyses were conducted to determine significant associations to past-year non-medical opioid use. Results: Weighted analyses revealed that 3.36% of youth used opioids non-medically in the past year. Compared to 2015, there was a significant decrease in the odds of past-year use in 2017 and 2018. NMOU users tended to be African American, Hispanic, reported major depression in the past year, and engaged in fighting with other youth. Compared to non-users of illegal drugs, youth who used marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes were more likely to use opioids in the past year. Conclusion: The present study found that opioid use is declining among youth. Findings may aid harm reduction efforts, theory-based clinical interventions, and health prevention messaging on opioid use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2020


  • Opioids
  • harm reduction
  • youth


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