Teens Who Abuse Painkillers Don’t Believe Treatment Is Necessary

Although prescription opioid abuse and dependence is a widespread problem among teenagers, the majority of those who abuse these potentially dangerous and addictive drugs do not ever receive treatment.

The 2014 results of the annual Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan, found that approximately 6.1 percent of high school seniors abused narcotic drugs other than heroin, including prescription opioids. While this is a decrease from 7.1 percent in 2013 and the peak of 9.7 percent in 2004, teen abuse of prescription painkillers remains a serious concern.

In 2012, researchers at Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania released a study that showed only 12 percent of teenagers who abuse prescription drugs or have symptoms of dependence received treatment. Approximately 9 percent of the teenagers in this study with one or two symptoms of dependence on opioids received treatment, while approximately 16 percent who met the diagnostic threshold for abuse or dependence received treatment.

Teens Don’t Believe They Need Help

By far the biggest reason that teens with symptoms of opioid abuse or dependence did not seek help was that they did not believe they needed it. In fact, an incredible 95 percent of teenagers who met all or some of the diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence said that they did not see a need for treatment. Only 4.2 percent of those who met the diagnostic threshold believed that they needed help, while less than 1 percent of those who had abuse or dependence symptoms but did not meet the diagnostic threshold believed that treatment was necessary for them.

Psychological and Practical Obstacles

The small percentage of teenagers with symptoms who believed that they needed help but had not yet received any reported a variety of psychological and practical obstacles. Approximately 34 percent reported that they had not sought help because they were not ready to stop using opioids. Fear of what others would think was also a major factor for many teens, with 22 percent saying that they did not want other people to know about their opioid abuse and 22 percent also saying that they did not want their neighbors to have a negative view of them.

The practical obstacles that some teens reported for failing to seek treatment included not knowing where to find help, believing that they could not afford treatment and lacking insurance that covered this kind of treatment. Others said they did not have time to get help, that the treatment programs in their areas did not have any openings or that they did not have transportation. Some were concerned that getting treatment for drug abuse would cause them to lose their jobs. Around 8 percent of teenagers said that they did not believe treatment would help, while 21 percent said that they thought they could solve the problem without professional help.

Parental Intervention Can Reduce Abuse

Misinformation about the dangers of opioid abuse are a major reason why so many teenagers feel comfortable abusing or misusing the drugs, and this is also a big part of why teens with symptoms of abuse or dependence rarely get help. Too many teens believe that prescription drugs are safer to abuse than illegal drugs and do not realize the risks that these drugs pose—risks that include addiction and fatal overdose. However, the 2012 study found that parental intervention can play a major role in getting teens to understand the dangers. Teens whose parents talked to them about substance abuse were 56 percent more likely to seek treatment for their opioid abuse.

Posted on December 14th, 2015
Posted in Addiction

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