Adolescent Use of Prescription Drugs to Get High in Canada

By Currie, Cheryl L.; Wild, T. Cameron | Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Adolescent Use of Prescription Drugs to Get High in Canada


Currie, Cheryl L., Wild, T. Cameron, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry


Objective: To present epidemiologic information on adolescent use of prescription drugs to get high, and not for medical purposes, in Canada.

Methods: Data were obtained from 44 344 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 living across Canada's 10 provinces who completed the Youth Smoking Survey in 2008/2009.

Results: Nationally, 5.9% of adolescents in grades 7 to 12 reported the use of prescription drugs to get high in the past 12 months in 2008/2009. Females were more likely to report use of pain relievers, sedatives, or tranquilizers to get high, while males were more likely to report the use of prescription stimulants for this purpose. The use of prescription drugs to get high was elevated among older youth, those living in British Columbia, and those who identified as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. School connectedness was associated with a reduction in this form of prescription drug misuse for all adolescents; however, this protective effect was particularly strong for Aboriginal youth, and may be an important preventative factor for this population.

Conclusions: Use of prescription drugs to get high was prevalent among adolescents in Canada in 2008/2009. Findings highlight the need for clinicians to include questions about prescription drugs when screening adolescents for substance abuse in Canada. Findings also highlight the need for evidence-informed strategies to reduce prescription drug misuse among Aboriginal youth living outside First Nations communities in Canada. The results of this study suggest school connectedness may be a particularly important target for these interventions.

Objectif : Offrir de l'information épidémiologique sur l'utilisation des médicaments sur ordonnance par les adolescents pour se droguer et non à des fins médicales, au Canada.

Méthodes : Les données ont été obtenues de 44 344 adolescents de la 7e à la 12e année habitant les 10 provinces du Canada qui ont répondu à l'Enquête sur le tabagisme chez les jeunes en 2008-2009.

Résultats : À l'échelle nationale, 5,9 % des adolescents de la 7e à la 12e année ont déclaré utiliser des médicaments sur ordonnance pour se droguer, dans les dix derniers mois de 2008-2009. Les filles étaient plus susceptibles de déclarer l'utilisation d'analgésiques, de sédatifs, ou de tranquillisants pour se droguer, alors que les garçons étaient plus susceptibles de déclarer l'utilisation de stimulants sur ordonnance à cette fin. L'utilisation de médicaments sur ordonnance pour se droguer était élevée chez les adolescents plus âgés, ceux qui habitent la Colombie-Britannique, et ceux qui s'identifiaient Métis, Inuits ou des Premières nations. Le sentiment d'appartenance à l'école était associé à une réduction de cette forme de mauvais usage des médicaments sur ordonnance pour tous les adolescents; cependant, cet effet était particulièrement marqué pour les adolescents autochtones, et peut constituer un important facteur préventif pour cette population.

Conclusions : L'utilisation de médicaments sur ordonnance pour se droguer était prevalente chez les adolescents du Canada en 2008-2009. Les résultats indiquent aux cliniciens le besoin d'inclure des questions sur les médicaments sur ordonnance, lorsqu'ils dépistent l'abus de substances au Canada. Les résultats indiquent également le besoin de stratégies éclairées par les données probantes afin de réduire le mauvais usage des médicaments sur ordonnance chez les adolescents autochtones vivant hors des communautés des Premières nations au Canada. Les résultats de cette étude suggèrent que le sentiment d'appartenance à l'école peut être une cible particulièrement importante pour ces interventions.

Key Words: prescription drug misuse, Canada, epidemiology, adolescent, Aboriginal, school connectedness

Received February 2012, revised, and accepted May 2012.

Psychoactive prescription drug abuse is an important public health concern in Canada. Canada is now the top per capita consumer of several high-potency opioids, and in 2009 became the third highest per capita user of prescription narcotics in the world. …

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