Youth opioid misuse intervention needed, report finds

National Safety Council (NSC) and University of Michigan researchers maintain effective intervention programs are not in place to address prescription opioid misuse among young people, noting the need for evidence-based prevention programs.

The collaborative analysis published in Preventive Medicine determined about one in 20 adolescents ages 10 to 17 and one in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25 report prescription opioid misuse. Still, intervention programming targeting the demographic is lacking.

“The U.S. opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that impacts all ages, including teens and young adults,” Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO, said. “Most teen-directed prevention programs focus on other drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. This research review emphasizes the critical need for a focus on opioid misuse during these crucial developmental years.”

Researchers indicated overdose and prescription opioid misuse is a growing issue among young people, with 5,060 people ages five to 24 dying from unintentional poisoning in 2017, largely from an opioid overdose.

Erin Bonar is the lead author from the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center.

“Evidence-based prevention efforts for this age group should be tailored to an individual’s contexts, severity, motives, and other risk factors related to prescription opioid misuse,” she said. “These efforts should be informed by behavioral change theories, be community-focused, efficient, and scalable, and be tailored to developmental considerations.”