Prescription Painkillers May Lead to Drug Addiction in Young Adults

A new study shows that young adults who were prescribed painkillers, or were raised in a home were drug use or alcohol abuse was present, were more likely to struggle with drug addiction. A team of researchers from Drexel University’s School of Public Health found that a family history of addiction was also a factor that led to the use of injected drugs. Dr. Stephen Lankenau, a researcher on the study, said, “Participants were commonly raised in households where misuse of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol, was normalized.” He added, “Access to prescription medication – either from a participant’s own source, a family member or a friend – was a key feature to initiation into prescription drug misuse.”

The study revealed that peer pressure and the opportunity for financial gain as a result of the sale of opioids, along with a curiosity to engage in drug use, increased the likelihood of opioid abuse. The researchers discovered two key factors in their study. First, nearly all of the injected drug users (IDU’s) in the study had used an opioid prior to becoming addicted to heroin. Additionally, one quarter of the IDU’s reported that opioids were the first type of drug that they injected when they began their drug use. The 50 participants, all between the age of 16 and 25, were recruited from outdoor environments, were mostly homeless and jobless and all had a history of prescription drug use. Most of the subjects had a previous diagnosis of a psychological problem, such as anxiety, ADHD or depression and had been raised in an environment where drug and alcohol misuse were prevalent. The researchers believe that these findings emphasize the need for prevention methods during adolescence and stress the importance of safeguarding all medications. They believe that parents must be vigilant in their efforts to keep children free from environments of drug and alcohol use in order to prevent them from developing addictions later in life.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Karen Gates

    Karen Gates

    July 27th, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Kids and teens have a nature of experimenting and if pain killers are easily accessible to them they would be even more tempted to try them. But it’s not like parents can keep every pill in the house under lock and key and keep it out of reach of their teenage children.

    A much better plan would be for parents to sit down with teens voluntarily and talk to them of drug use and it’s prevention. It willdefibitely break ice between the parents and the teen and will also help ensure reduce drug usage.

  • Justin Moore

    Justin Moore

    July 27th, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    The conclusions from this study are definitely predictable and full of common sense. Hopefully, parents of teens will wake up and realize that this information that has been around for decades still applies to teens today. Our society is headed for ruin if parents of teens check out of parenting and allow their teens to wander around outside without supervision. Parents, please wake up and save our youth from drug and alcohol addiction!

  • Elisabetta


    July 28th, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    I still can’t believe that there are people who take these things like candy and who spend the money on them to buy them! They do nothing but make me antsy and make me itch whenever I have been given them. Give me plain old Advil anyday!

  • miley


    July 28th, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    the way I see it-this study is implying that if we give our body a taste of pharmaceuticals,it’ll crave for’s like eating something sweet and then you automatically want more of it(well,for most people at least).

    if that is true about our body,it could well result in overhauling the treatment methods for children.but has this implication of study even been noticed?

  • Shannon E

    Shannon E

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    This is a bad development that I think has shot up in recent years. All these drug popping habits will not only temporarily affect these kids but will also change the reaction of their bodies to any drugs later on…and this includes real
    Medicines that they may need to have at some point! And let’s not even get started on what dealing with drugs can get them into.

  • mandy T

    mandy T

    July 30th, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    But what do you do when they have to have surgery? Painkillers are generally going to be a necessity after something major like that. So it cannot always be avoided/

  • Liz Hopkins

    Liz Hopkins

    August 11th, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Growing up around drugs and alcohol and that leading to addiction is something that makes perfectly good sense to me, but not painkillers. I’ve used painkillers throughout my childhood, some prescription, and I don’t even drink coffee.

    It’s not a given that you will become addicted in later life because there was easy access to painkillers in your childhood home.

  • Wilma Reyes

    Wilma Reyes

    August 12th, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    @Liz–being able to get prescription medication is a completely different story. Those pills are expensive, and prescribed in batches. Anyone who is worth their salt will know how many pills they have and how long they will last. The parents should notice if their 30 day supply runs out on day 18!

    If an adult can’t spot their kids are stealing them they must have been dealing with serious issues themselves.

  • Jennifer Roberts

    Jennifer Roberts

    August 13th, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    There’s a good way to make sure that any teenager in your house doesn’t abuse prescription drugs. Put them under lock and key if you have even the slightest inkling that may be happening.

    Also, when you renew them if the timeframe is narrowing, it’s time to get suspicious. Your doctor will soon notice as well and it will be you he will suspect of abusing your medication. Do you really want that on your medical notes? Don’t make it easy for them to be tempted by leaving your medication unguarded.

  • G.V.


    August 13th, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    There can be times when you are taking two in one day instead of one though, or forgetting to note things. If you start accusing your teenagers of taking prescription drugs because of your mistake, you will drive a very deep wedge in your relationship.

    I agree that the best way to keep them out of their hands is to lock them somewhere. A locked box is not expensive and you can get lockable medicine cabinets.

  • Micheal Terry

    Micheal Terry

    August 14th, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    @Karen: No Karen. No they do not. The number of teens who abuse drugs are a minority. The majority don’t. They do not have a natural slant to do this at all. I do agree with your second point completely however. Parents need to talk to their children about this stuff instead of avoiding it. They have a natural curiosity and that’s about it.

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