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Teens Who Drink, Smoke More Likely to Abuse Painkillers Later: Study

Last Updated: August 21, 2012.

An estimated 3.5 million young adults in U.S. abuse prescription opioids, researchers say.

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Teenagers who smoke or drink are two to three times more likely to abuse prescription painkillers later on in life, new research shows.

Researchers from Yale University analyzed information collected from young adults aged 18 to 25 from the 2006-2008 U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

About 12 percent of the young adults surveyed said they currently abused prescription opioids. Of those, 57 percent had abused alcohol as teens; 56 percent smoked cigarettes and 34 percent used marijuana.

About 3.5 million young adults abuse prescription opioids, "and this number is growing," study lead author Dr. Lynn Fiellin, associate professor of medicine at Yale, said in a university news release.

Gender was also associated with risk of opioid abuse, the investigators found. Among men, use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana when they were teenagers was associated with a greater risk for opioid abuse later on in life. For the women, only marijuana use was linked to later drug abuse.

The study is scheduled for publication in the Aug. 21 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

While the study uncovered an association between teen substance use and prescription opioid drug abuse, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more information on teens and substance abuse.

SOURCE: Yale School of Medicine, news release, Aug. 21, 2012

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