Prescription Drug Abuse in Adolescents Matthew Louie, M.D., Child Fellow II

  • Recently Dr. Matthew Louie presented at Grand Rounds. Here are some valuable excerpts from this presentation:

  • After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older.

  • Students and even some parents often see nothing wrong in the abuse of stimulants to improve cognitive function and academic performance.

  • Being in college may even be a risk factor for greater non-medical use of amphetamines or methylphenidate.

  • Males have higher rates of overall illicit drug use but beyond 7th grade, females have higher rates of prescription drug abuse.

  • Young males were much more likely to sell their medication compared to females.

  • Girls were much more likely to give their medication away (28% vs. 17%)

  • 20% of girls and ~13% of boys reported borrowing and/or sharing prescribed medications in their lifetimes.

  • The rate at which controlled medications are prescribed to adolescents has almost doubled from 6.4% of doctor visits (in 1994) to 11.2% of visits (in 2007).

  • There has been an ~ 4-fold increase in opioid prescriptions and an 8-fold increase in stimulant prescriptions to adolescents in the last two decades.

  • Often there is the perception that abusing prescription drugs is less harmful than illicit ones.

  • Because prescription drugs are safe and effective when used properly and are broadly marketed to the public, the notion that they are also harmful and addictive when abused can be a difficult one to convey.

  • Only 10% of 12-to-17-year-olds needing substance abuse treatment actually receives any services.

  • Education is a critical component of any effort to curb the abuse of prescription medications.

  • By far, the largest proportions of adolescents who receive treatment are referred by the juvenile justice system.

Way to go, Juvenile Justice System, in keeping our youth connected with needed services!


Thank you JPPS, Juvenile Hall, and Probation for all of your hard work ensuring the minors of Kern County are seen and cared for.


Don’t forget to send your Dear Optimus Prime Questions to:

mailto:MH-Transformer@co.kern.ca.us