Study Finds Peers, Not Peer Pressure, Are Behind Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

A study released from Purdue University found that the misuse and  prescription drug abuse by young adults may have less to do with peer pressure and more to do with peers. The researchers noted that efforts to study the correlation between prescription drugs and peer pressure may not be the best method. Instead, the study authors discovered a few less noticeable issues surrounding peers. Some of these subtleties include peers as a source of drug access, the associations of peers and drugs and the desires behind abusing prescription drugs for fun.

The Rise of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Teen prescription drug abuse is increasing across the nation. Opioids have risen as the third most commonly used drug by adolescents 14 and older, behind marijuana and alcohol. Some of the more popular prescription drugs that are misused are sedatives, stimulants and painkillers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 15 percent of high school seniors used prescription drugs nonmedically in 2013, most commonly using Adderall. Peer pressure is often seen as an act where teens are coaxed into doing something because their friends encouraged them to. This study evaluated the concept of direct social pressure and indirect pressure, noting that indirect pressure is not friends blatantly pushing friends to try substances, but rather friends creating an environment where everyone is trying to have a good time and be social. Researchers collected data from 2011 to 2013. They surveyed 404 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 on prescription drug abuse in the past 90 days. They also interviewed 214 participants in person.  All of the participants were recruited for the study from nightclubs, bars and lounges located in New York City.

The Prevalence of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

The study revealed that, on average, prescription drugs were misused 38 times in the past 90 days. The researchers examined peer factors such as how the drugs were ingested other than swallowing, how often the drug was abused and signs of dependency and addiction. The findings displayed that all three of these factors are associated with peer drug links. So, if a drug is correlated to better social benefits, it will be abused more often. If it is associated with poor consequences, it will be shied away from. When adolescents view a drug more positively, it is more likely to be ingested in other ways than swallowing and raise the risk of dependence and the frequency of abuse. The researchers also found a strong link between prescription drugs and having a good time with friends. The amount of sources for drugs within a friend group also matters, since sharing prescription drugs among friends in adolescence is common.

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