National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Prescription Drug Misuse Among Homeless Youth

Rhoades, H.,
Winetrobe, H.,
Rice, E.
Year Published: 2014
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Volume: 138


This journal article describes a study that looked at prescription drug misuse (PDM) among homeless youth. The researchers recruited a sample of 451 homeless youth from drop-in centers in Los Angeles to collect information about substance use, mental health, service utilization, trauma, and sexual risk behavior. Nearly 50 percent of the study participants reported misusing prescription drugs in their lifetime while almost 22 percent had done so in the past month. The most frequently used prescriptions in the past month were opioids, sedatives, stimulants, or some combination of the three types of drugs. Homeless youth indicated they usually obtained prescriptions for free from friends or relatives. The findings show that foster care involvement was associated with decreased PDM, while hard drug use, suicidal ideation, and unprotected sex were associated with increased PDM. The researchers recommend that PDM prevention programs among homeless youth recognize the clustering of risk factors, assess prescription use and access when providing mental health services, and educate the public about proper disposal of prescriptions. (author abstract modified)

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