Young Adults Who Don’t Attend College More Likely to Abuse Prescription Painkillers

Young adults who do not attend college are more likely than their peers who are enrolled in school to abuse prescription painkillers, according to new research.

The findings come from an analysis of data from almost 37,000 young adults ages 18 to 22. Among those who did not graduate from high school, 13.2 percent reported nonmedical use of narcotic painkillers, compared with 13.1 percent with a high school degree and 11.3 percent of those attending college. The association between education level and painkiller abuse is much stronger in women than in men, the study found.

College students were more likely than their peers not enrolled in school to abuse prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, according to HealthDay.

The findings appear in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

“Our findings clearly show there is a need for young adult prevention and intervention programs to target nonmedical prescription drug use beyond college campuses,” researcher Dr. Silvia Martins of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release. “This age group is particularly vulnerable to the development of adverse substance-using patterns, due in part to the process of identity formation that emerges at this developmental stage.”

The researchers note that about 70 percent of all U.S. young adults enroll in some form of college education, but around 30 percent do not.

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