A few years ago, it wasn’t necessarily uncommon to see adolescents and young adults misusing opioids. It wasn’t even that unusual to see them mixing them with other drugs such as marijuana and alcohol. In 2015, it reached a peak.
There were 3.7 overdoses per 100,000 adolescents, the highest statistic since about 2011. Thankfully since then, according studies with 12th graders in 2017, opioids have become less easily accessible, likely reducing the number of overdoses*. Often the kids who still have easy access to opioids live in communities where drug abuse is prevalent. In those communities, opioids are easier to find illegally. Peer pressure can become a factor as well as adolescents see others taking prescription drugs and may want to fit in.
Fortunately, opioid misuse is decreasing. For example, among high school seniors, past year misuse of pain medication, excluding heroin, decreased to 4.2 percent in 2017. The past-year misuse of Vicodin decreased from a peak of 10.5 percent in 2003 to 2.0 percent in 2017, and Oxycontin misuse has decreased from the peak rate of 5.5 percent in 2005 to 2.7 percent in 2017. Furthermore, students in the 12th grade believe that opioids are harder to obtain than in the past. In 2010, 54 percent of students in 12th grade believed that these drugs were easily accessible, as compared to 35.8 percent in 2017.