February 12, 2020

Research review on youth prescription opioid misuse finds opportunities for additional investment in targeted prevention

A comprehensive literature review conducted by the National Safety Council and the U-M Injury Prevention Center uncovers prevention efforts are not in place to protect a generation from misuse. 

Researchers at the National Safety Council and U-M found that about 1 in 20 adolescents ages 10 to 17 and 1 in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25 report prescription opioid misuse, based on a new review published in Preventive Medicine.

However, effective intervention programs are not in place to address prescription opioid misuse among young people, and NSC and the U-M Injury Prevention Center researchers are urgently calling for evidence-based prevention programs to be developed and tested. 

“The U.S. opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that impacts all ages, including teens and young adults,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “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.” 

For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a motor vehicle crash. Overdose is the leading cause of preventable death for adults ages 25 to 65, and most education and prevention efforts have targeted that group of Americans. However, overdose and prescription opioid misuse is a growing issue among young people, with 5,060 people ages 5 to 24 dying from unintentional poisoning – largely from opioid overdose – in 2017.  

The research from NSC and the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center indicate a lack of a recent evidence-based interventions available to understand the trajectory and risk factors for opioid misuse in adolescence and young adulthood and proven programs that can prevent misuse, Opioid Use Disorder or overdose in youth and beyond into adulthood. 

As a result of the research findings, NSC and the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center will explore promising intervention programs and methods to make recommendations for future directions.

Erin Bonar, Ph.D. lead author and an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at U-M, says, “Evidence-based prevention efforts for this age group should be tailored to an individuals’ contexts, severity, motives, and other risk factors related to prescription opioid misuse. These efforts should be informed by behavioral change theories, be community-focused, efficient, and scalable, and be tailored to developmental considerations.” In addition to being a member of the Injury Prevention Center, Bonar is a member of IHPI and of the U-M Addiction Center, in the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan Medicine.

The research project was made possible through support from Walgreens, Nationwide, Raymond Betler and Brian Cook.

For more information about the NSC opioid misuse prevention efforts, visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers

For more information about opioid-related work across U-M, visit opioids.umich.edu/

See the original announcement here: https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/research-review-youth-prescription-opioid-misuse-finds-opportunities-additional-investment