_COMMUNITY Public Health

_‘Gateway’ to Abuse

Could routine prescriptions for teens—such as painkillers for post-surgery aches and pains—affect the way they misuse drugs later in life?

Researchers at the School of Public Health recently published a study in the first issue of the Journal of Public Health Research that sought to identify patterns in the misuse of illegal drugs among young adults who also misuse prescription drugs.

This study, led by Stephen Lankenau, an associate professor of Public Health, is the first to compare patterns of prescription and illegal drug use among high-risk young adults who already engage in the misuse of prescription drugs. The report could help drug treatment providers be aware of patterns of drug use in order to treat their clients more effectively.


The number of young adults interviewed in either New York or Los Angeles. They were asked questions about patterns of drug use initiation, prescription history, their patterns of misuse and more.


The number of days participants must have used drugs within to be eligible to participate in the study. Most of the young people chosen were first approached on the streets in public locations.

12 YRS

The age most of the participants were first prescribed stimulants such as Ritalin and Aderal, which first exposed them to the experience of feeling relief from the drugs.