Psychotropics are consumed by a third of young adults

Some 34% of adults aged 18-25 have abused their psychoactive medications, defined as opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives, according to a study published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

Drug misuse was defined as taking a prescription in larger amounts than prescribed, more frequently than prescribed, for longer than prescribed, or in a way that was not specified by their healthcare provider . Someone taking a drug that was not prescribed to them was also considered abuse.

Abuse of psychoactive drugs can lead to overdoses, chemical dependence and, in severe cases, death, said the study’s lead author Israel Agaku, a senior lecturer in the Department of Oral Health Policy. and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

The researchers collected data from surveys of American youth and young adults conducted between 2015 and 2018.

More than 20% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who took psychotropic drugs also abused these drugs. The higher number of young adults abusing drugs compared to young people could be attributed to a lack of parental supervision, Agaku said.

Adults could obtain these prescription drugs from their peers, he said, “which could be facilitated in social circles where there is some measure of social acceptability.” That could include performance-enhancing stimulants called “study drugs,” Agaku said.

Multiple prescriptions increase the risk of abuse

Taking multiple psychoactive drugs significantly increased the risk of abuse, the researchers also found.

Over 60% of adults who took multiple psychoactive medications reported misusing at least one of their prescriptions. For youth aged 12 to 17, the number was over 46%.

People can get addicted to drugs and need more to feel “uplifted,” Agaku said. He also thinks there might be a social component, in which people who take these drugs “are given more social and environmental cues to engage in such behavior.”

Opioid use was highest among young adults and youth, with 30% of adults using psychoactive drugs taking opioids and 19% among youth.

However, stimulants and tranquilizers were by far the most commonly used drugs. More than 40% of young people who took tranquilizers reported misusing them, and more than 51% of adults who took stimulants said they misused them.

Abuse of stimulants may have been high among young adults because they “may intentionally obtain them from their healthcare providers for non-medical purposes,” Agaku said in an email. Stimulants are also less stigmatized among young adults in settings such as college campuses, he said.

Step forward

For psychoactive drugs like opioids, their supply to the public should be less, said Dr. Andrew Saxon, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the panel. ‘study.

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Starting in the 1990s, “the message doctors were getting was that if you’re a compassionate, caring doctor and your patient is in pain, you’ll prescribe opioids because it’s not dangerous to do so,” Saxon said. .

That was true for some patients, he said, but opioids did more harm than good for others. Physicians recommended by Saxon are looking at other forms of treatment for their patients, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

To reduce the abuse of psychoactive drugs, Agaku recommended behavioral counseling as an alternative before prescribing drugs. For young people in particular, he called on parents to take responsibility for their own medications so that they do not fall into the hands of their children.

Alvin J. Chase