Nonmedical prescription drug use among US young adults by educational attainment

Silvia S. Martins, June H. Kim, Lian Yu Chen, Deysia Levin, Katherine M. Keyes, Magdalena Cerdá, Carla L. Storr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Purpose: Little is known about nonmedical use of prescription drugs among non-college-attending young adults in the United States. Methods: Data were drawn from 36,781 young adults (ages 18–22 years) from the 2008–2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health public use files. The adjusted main effects for current educational attainment, along with its interaction with gender and race/ethnicity, were considered. Results: Compared to those attending college, non-college-attending young adults with at least and less than a HS degree had a higher prevalence of past-year nonmedical use of prescription opioids [NMUPO 13.1 and 13.2 %, respectively, vs. 11.3 %, adjusted odds ratios (aORs) 1.21 (1.11–1.33) and 1.25 (1.12–1.40)], yet lower prevalence of prescription stimulant use. Among users, regardless of drug type, non-college-attending youth were more likely to have past-year disorder secondary to use [e.g., NMUPO 17.4 and 19.1 %, respectively, vs. 11.7 %, aORs 1.55 (1.22–1.98) and 1.75 (1.35–2.28)]. Educational attainment interacted with gender and race: (1) among nonmedical users of prescription opioids, females who completed high school but were not enrolled in college had a significantly greater risk of opioid disorder (compared to female college students) than the same comparison for men; and (2) the risk for nonmedical use of prescription opioids was negligible across educational attainment groups for Hispanics, which was significantly different than the increased risk shown for non-Hispanic whites. Conclusions: There is a need for young adult prevention and intervention programs to target nonmedical prescription drug use beyond college campuses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-724
Number of pages12
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Drug use disorders
  • Educational attainment
  • Gender differences
  • Nonmedical prescription drug use
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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