Kids younger than 12 misusing prescription drugs, study suggests

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Ann Arbor, MI – More than 10 percent of children have illegally used another individual’s prescription medication, and an increasing number are doing so at a younger age, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

Researchers analyzed data of more than 5,000 Detroit-area students and found the number of children illegally taking prescription drugs at a younger age has more than doubled over a 10-year period.

Of children born between 1991 and 1995 who illegally took another person’s prescription drug, about 35 percent reported doing so before turning 12. However, among younger children – those born between 1996 and 2000 – 76 percent who illegally used prescription medication reported doing so before age 12.

Additionally, the number of children prescribed controlled medication before turning 12 has about doubled in a 10-year period, and the researchers found that receiving a prescription before that age was associated with a greater chance of using someone else’s prescription at a younger age.

The drugs abused included opioids, stimulants, sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs. The study was published online Aug. 17 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Prescription drugs are the most fatally abused drug in the United States, and more 35- to 54-year-olds die from unintentional drug overdoses than in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Safety Council.