Abuse of prescription painkillers was more likely to occur among adolescents who live in rural areas and small towns vs. adolescents who live in large urban areas, a new study has found. Findings from the study are published in the Journal of Rural Health

Researchers from Penn State University analyzed data from the 2011 and 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that included 32,036 adolescents on past year prescription and opioid misuse. Specifically, they found that adolescents who live in small cities have a 21% higher chance of abusing prescription painkillers than their peers in large urban areas. These adolescents were also more likely to go to emergency rooms for care than to a primary care practitioner; emergency room clinicians are more likely to prescribe painkillers. They also found that females were more likely to abuse prescription painkillers than males. 

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Common painkillers that are abused include OxyContin, oxycodone, Percocet, and other morphine-based drugs. Youths from rural areas are less likely to comprehend the risks of abusing painkillers and less likely to have access to treatment centers, researchers reported. 

However, factors such as less access to illicit drugs, more positive peer pressure, and stronger religious beliefs may play a role in preventing rural adolescent painkiller abuse from being much worse, Shannon Monnat, assistant professor at Penn State University concluded. 

For more information visit psu.edu.