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The mental health consequences of nonmedical prescription drug use among adolescents.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • M.M. Ali
  • D. Dean
  • Bill Dowd
  • R. Lipari
  • A.P. Aldridge
  • S.P. Novak
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>The journal of mental health policy and economics
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)3-15
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


BACKGROUND: Nonmedical prescription drug use is estimated to be the second most abused category of drugs after marijuana among adolescents. Prescription drugs can be highly addictive and prolonged use can produce neurological changes and physiological dependence and could result in adverse mental health outcomes. This topic is largely unexplored, as current knowledge of possible mechanisms of the linkage between adverse mental health consequences and prescription drug misuse is limited. AIM OF THE STUDY: This study explores the relationship between nonmedical use of prescription drugs and depression outcomes among adolescents. Given their complex and confounded relationship, our purpose is to better understand the extent to which nonmedical use of prescription drugs is an antecedent of depressive episodes. METHODS: Using data from the 2008-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the study employs a propensity score matching methodology to ascertain whether nonmedical use of prescription drugs is linked to major depressive episodes among adolescents. RESULTS: The results document a positive relationship between nonmedical prescription drug use and major depressive episodes among adolescents. Specifically, the results indicate that adolescents who used prescription drugs non-medically are 33% to 35% more likely to experience major depressive episodes compared to their non-abusing counterparts. IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTH POLICY: This provides additional evidence about the potential public health consequences of misuse of prescription drugs on adverse mental health outcomes. Given the significant increased risk of major depressive episode among adolescents who use prescription drugs nonmedically, it seems that the prevention of nonmedical prescription drug use warrants the utilization of both educational and public health resources. IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH: An important area for future research is to understand how any policy initiatives in this area must strike a balance between the need to minimize the misuse of prescription drugs and the need to ensure access for their legitimate health care use.