Prescription Drug Use, Misuse and Related Substance Use Disorder Symptoms Vary by Educational Status and Attainment in U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults
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Background: Prescription drug misuse (PDM) rates are highest in adolescents and young adults. Little research in these high-risk groups has examined PDM differences by educational status or attainment. This investigation attempted to further our understanding of adolescent and young adult prescription drug use and misuse through examining PDM type (i.e., nonmedical misuse, medical misuse and mixed misuse) and substance use disorder (SUD) symptoms from PDM by educational status/attainment. Methods: Data were from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, with 13,585 adolescent and 14,553 young adult respondents. Participants were categorized by educational status separately in adolescents and young adults. Outcomes were rates of past-year prescription drug use, PDM, PDM type, and SUD symptoms, with analyses performed separately by age group and for opioids, stimulants and sedatives/tranquilizers. Analyses used logistic regression and controlled for age, race/ethnicity and sex. Results: In adolescents and across medication classes, the highest rates of any use, PDM, medical misuse, nonmedical misuse and presence of two or more SUD symptoms were seen in those with poor school adjustment or not in school. In young adults, opioid-PDM and related outcomes were more prevalent in those not in school, especially high school dropouts. For stimulants, rates were highest in full-time college students and college graduates. Conclusions: These results further suggest the importance of assessing educational status in adolescent and educational attainment in young adult PDM investigations. Adolescents poorly engaged in school or not in school appear especially in need of interventions to limit PDM and associated SUD symptoms.