New Resources for Prevention of Adolescent Prescription Drug Abuse

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Abuse of prescription drugs by adolescents is a growing concern for parents and professionals who work with young people. Understanding how prescription drug abuse is different than abuse of other drugs is vital for prevention efforts and requires different approaches to intervention and treatment. The Prevention Researcher, the quarterly journal focused on successful adolescent development, features new resources on nonmedical prescription drug abuse by adolescents in its current issue.

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... 22% of high school seniors report that they have used nonmedical prescription drugs sometime in their lives ...

“For adolescents, prescription drugs are second only to marijuana as the most popular form of illegal drug use,” says Steven Ungerleider, PhD., founding editor of The Prevention Researcher. “With 22% of high school seniors reporting that they have used nonmedical prescription drugs sometime in their lives, abuse of these drugs is a growing concern for parents and many professionals who work with youth.”

Abuse of prescription drugs is different than that of other drugs. As such, different approaches to prevention, intervention, and treatment are necessary.

In the current issue of The Prevention Researcher, researchers provide an overview of adolescent nonmedical prescription drug use, examine adolescents’ motives for use of these drugs, discuss implications for intervention among youth in rural settings, review a collaborative approach for preventing prescription drug use by adolescents, and describe a prevention “toolkit” to be used by community-based programs working with young people.

In their introductory article, “Adolescent Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use,” Jason A. Ford, PhD. and William C. Watkins, PhD. provide an overview of research on the subject, describe its prevalence, identify demographics of youth at risk, and offer a strategy for prevention. The researchers conclude that “it is imperative that service professionals who work with adolescent populations be aware of this emerging and serious issue. Clearly, any substance use prevention programs that target adolescents must include information on nonmedical prescription drug use.”

Sean Esteban McCabe, PhD. and Carol J. Boyd, PhD. review the motives of adolescents for engaging in nonmedical prescription drug use, noting that motives for use are different than for other drugs such as marijuana. They state that “motives for nonmedical use of prescription medications really do matter because differentiating subtypes of nonmedical users based on motives could help identify individuals who are untreated (or inadequately treated) for a legitimate health condition and/or those who need a more comprehensive substance abuse assessment.”

In their article, “Rural Adolescents’ Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use: Implications for Intervention,” April M. Young, MPH, Natalie Glover, MS, and Jennifer R. Havens, PhD. review the research focusing on rural residence as a risk factor for nonmedical prescription drug use by adolescents. They also highlight the implications for prevention and intervention strategies in rural settings.

Beth A. Jones, PhD., Harry Fullwood, PhD., and Melissa Hawthorn, MS provide a framework for developing a collaborative approach to prescription drug abuse prevention that involves families, youth, schools, and the community. The authors describe a prevention “toolkit” that can be adapted for use by prevention awareness teams in schools and other community settings.

In “Utilizing Business, University, and Community Resources to Target Adolescent Prescription Drug Abuse,” seven authors from Ohio State University (OSU) and the Cardinal Health Foundation describe Generation Rx, a prescription drug abuse strategy developed by OSU’s College of Pharmacy. Intended for use by healthcare providers, parents/guardians, school personnel, and community leaders, Generation Rx includes interactive tools and resources for educating teens and adults about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The article highlights use of the strategy within two innovative community-based programs.

For a preview of a digital edition of The Prevention Researcher on “Adolescent Prescription Drug Abuse,” visit

About The Prevention Researcher

Founded in 1994, The Prevention Researcher is published by the non-profit, Integrated Research Services in Eugene, Oregon. The quarterly journal focuses on successful adolescent development and serves professionals who work with young people in a variety of organizational settings.

Each issue of The Prevention Researcher covers a single topic, presenting the latest adolescent behavioral research and findings on significant issues facing today’s youth. The journal provides information about programs that create supportive environments for youth, strategies for preventing problems affecting adolescents, and resources that help youth-serving professionals.


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Todd Peterson