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Prescription drug misuse later in life greatly increases risk for substance use disorder

Nearly half of people in a large U.S. study reported misusing prescription drugs between ages 18-50, which made them more likely to develop substance use disorder symptoms as adults––especially those whose misuse peaked later in life.

The new study from University of Michigan School of Nursing researchers recommends screening for prescription drug misuse and substance use disorder from adolescence through middle adulthood. Currently, the recommendation is to screen adults for unhealthy drug use in some instances, but not adolescents.

“The findings of the current study add to growing evidence that prescription drug misuse at any age, including adolescence, is a strong signal for substance-related problems, and that screening during adolescence can identify high-risk individuals before they develop more severe substance-related problems,” said Sean Esteban McCabe, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the U-M School of Nursing.

The study is the first known to examine prescription drug misuse over a 32-year period, McCabe said. It focuses on opioids, stimulants and sedatives/tranquilizers, which are among the most misused prescription drugs. They’re most often misused during young adulthood but in recent years, prescription drug misuse has increased among older adults.

Read more from Michigan News.