Opioid Use in Adolescents Essay

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Over the past year, 3.6 percent of adolescents have misused opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and the brain. Opioids are used to treat pain, cough, and diarrhea. Opioids come in tablet forms and are usually distributed by doctors, these pills should be taken for a short period of time. Opioids are also known as, OxyContin, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, and morphine. Opioids produce euphoria which helps with pain relief, and can cause addiction. Opioids are addictive and have become one of the most commonly misused drugs. Opioid misuse is the leading cause of the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic has caused many opioid overdose deaths and has created addiction. Every day 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose. Additionally, the use of opioids can cause bad grades, bad relationships with family and friends, and cause poor performances in sports. The purpose of this research is to present information about opioid use in adolescents. Fact based findings from several studies will show adverse effects on opioid misuse. This study is intended to educate those who are not aware of opioid use and misuse in adolescents.


Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, fentanyl, and pain relievers. They are available legally by prescription such as Oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others. Opioids have become a national crisis and 80 percent of deaths in the city of Philadelphia alone involve opioids. In 2019, there is still an opioid epidemic taking place in the city of Philadelphia. Many environmental factors are resulting in adolescent opioid addiction. These environmental factors include: playing sports, mainly football and wrestling, older peers, family members, and doctors. Adolescents simply have easy access to opioids and as a result opioids are being misused. Opioids are used to reduce pain, but instead it is being used for the wrong reasons, such as getting high. Also, this research will explore how environmental factors influence opioid use among adolescents. Thus, this paper will identify what can be done to prevent opioid use and what is the cause of opioid use.

Literature Review

Playing through pain: sports participation and nonmedical use of opioid medications among adolescents (2013) focuses on non-medical use of prescription opioids among adolescents who were involved in competitive sports. The article looked at both non-participants and participants of competitive sports. The authors main point was monitoring adolescents of non-medical prescription opioid use with high injuries while being involved in sports. In 2011, there were 15.2 percent of high school seniors using non-medical opioids such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Additionally, adolescents who play football and wrestling had a 50 percent increase in non-medical use to prescription opioids than peers who did not play those two sports. Notably, football players and wrestlers have the highest severe injury rate among high school athletes and it is easy to obtain opioids from a teammate who is giving their prescription opioid medication to peers. To summarize, adolescents health risk of using non-medical prescription opioids for injuries was detected. This article provides great information on higher opioid use in adolescents who play sports than those who do not participate in sports at all.

Another article called “Trajectories of non-medical use of prescription opioids among adolescents in primary care” (2013) discussed the rise of non-medical use of prescription opioids in adolescents. It looked at both risk factors and patterns of use over time of non-medical prescription opioid use in adolescents. The authors main goal was to examine adolescents’ that used non-medical prescription opioids that had more psychosocial risk factors and those who still misused prescription opioids. Non-medial prescription use was extremely high among street youth. There were 512 adolescents in a randomized controlled trial, and 88 percent were involved in non-medical prescription opioid use. One-third of adolescents reported engaging in non-medical prescription opioid use (NMPOU) before illegal drug use. Most street youth reported that illegal drugs led them to non-medical opioid use. This study did not include a sample based on random recruitment methods. To conclude, findings suggest that adolescents that use illegal drugs are more likely to use NMPOU earlier on than those who do not. The article provides plenty of results and background information on non-medical prescription opioid use with adolescents.


Opioid use in adolescents is happening all over the United States, not just in the city of Philadelphia. Before it was known that medications were highly addictive, the increased prescription of opioid medication led to misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. There has been over 130 plus deaths every day from opioid overdoses. Opioid overdoses have accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, which is more than any previous year. There is an estimated 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths that are involved with prescription opioids (HHS.GOV/OPIOIDS, 2019). Studies show that non-medical use of opioids are used a lot by adolescents. Majority of adolescents that indicated non-medical opioid use had a history of medical use of prescription opioids. Adolescents that reported both medical use of prescription opioids and non-medical opioid use were medical users before non-medical opioid use became most prevalent. This pattern may be driven by the one-third of adolescents who report non-medical opioid use that involves leftover opioid medications from their own previous prescriptions (McCabe, 2017).

Adolescents have an increased risk of opioid misuse. They are most commonly used for, acute and chronic pain, physical health problems, mental health illness, or other substance use or misuse. Nearly half of adolescents from the ages of 12 to 17 have reported misusing opioids because they were given or bought them from a friend or a relative. Youth who have witnessed a family member overdose or who have a large number of friends who misuse prescription drugs are at an increased risk (McCabe, 2017). Studies show that adolescents committed to doing well in school and know about the dangers of pain relivers have a lower risk of substance use. In addition, adolescents that have a strong bond with their parents have a lower risk of misuse of opioids.

Link to Leadership/Administration

Opioids have relevance in health care administration and the food and drug administration. Health care administration is making sure hospitals, home care agencies, and group practices run accordingly. Also, health care administration is making sure that people have insurance, keeping medical records up to date, and making sure each employer does their job. The reason for this is to reduce unnecessary opioid prescriptions and make sure they are not being distributed to the wrong patient. Opioid use in adolescents is relevant in health care administration because opioids are given in hospitals and also, doctors prescribe opioids for pain. Furthermore, the food and drug administration is also relevant with opioid use in adolescents. The FDA approved a new opioid painkiller in November of 2018 that is 10 times stronger than fentanyl (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2018). The drug is called Dsuvia, and it is more potent than morphine. This drug is in care settings such as hospitals, emergency rooms, and surgery centers.

However, there are solutions; leadership is motivating people to act towards achieving a goal. There are many different styles of leadership. One particular leadership style that has relevance in opioid use in adolescents is situational leadership. Situational leadership is a leadership style in which someone must adjust their style to fit the development level they are trying to influence (Al-Sawai, 2013). Adolescents who are using opioids should have better influencers in their corner. Situational leadership can give adolescents better options for a better lifestyle. As a situational leader, you must adjust to the lifestyle of adolescents using opioids and the trials and tribulations that they go through. Situational leadership is influencing adolescents to do better, be better, and not to be (hooked on) opioids. Trying to get adolescents to stop using opioids will be a step by step process.

A communication style to prevent and or address opioid use in adolescents would be oral communication. Oral communication is being able to express information or ideas by word or mouth. Oral communication can be face-to-face conversations, telephone conversations, meetings, and presentations (Taran, 2011). Oral communication would work best when talking to adolescents who are addicted to opioids. Face-to-face conversations are very necessary because interacting with a person, being able to see their facial expressions, and how they are doing is important when having a conversation about a serious matter. Oral communication could prevent opioid use in adolescents by sitting down and talking to them and having meetings about why opioids are not good. Meetings and face-to-face sit downs will show how serious the person is about helping adolescents with their opioid addiction.

Opioid use in adolescents is rarely talked about but it is a huge issue. Solutions to this issue would be getting adolescents more involved in after school programs, such as non-contact sports or clubs. Adolescents who are involved in extracurricular activities have less of a chance to become involved with drugs. Most of opioid use in adolescents starts at home or with peers. Social context and perspectives of non-medical prescription opioid use among young adults in Rhode Island stated, that there is easy access to prescription opioids for non-medical use. Adolescents also, stated that it was easy to get a hold of prescription opioids through family and friends (Clark et al., 2016). Adolescents should not have to depend on opioids to live their lives. On top of that, support groups should be held because this would help a lot with adolescents who are addicted to opioids. Support groups help with recovery by surrounding adolescents with people who have a common purpose.

Treating pain cautiously is another solution to help prevent opioid misuse in adolescents. Adolescents are often exposed to opioids through prescriptions. Dentist prescriptions account for 31 percent of adolescents first exposure to opioids (McCabe, 2017). Treatment options should be turned to before prescribing opioids for acute and chronic pain in adolescents. Adults that care can even make sure that adolescents who are dealing with opioid misuse get the proper help that they need. The teenage brain is still growing and they are vulnerable to addiction. Since adolescents are vulnerable to addiction, adults should help prevent opioid misuse in adolescents by being there for them and helping as much as they can. Strong relationships should be built with adolescents to talk to them about opioid misuse and drug prevention.


To conclude, opioid misuse is serious, especially among adolescents. Opioid addiction occurs when the body feels a strong need for opioids. Opioid use in adolescents often starts from either a peer or relative. Opioid misuse is very common among adolescents and can cause addiction. When opioids are taken as prescribed they can be safe and reduce pain. When opioids are misused they can lead to harmful effects such as slow breathing and deadly overdoses. Environmental factors play a huge role in opioid addiction in adolescents. Adolescents should be more involved in extracurricular activities to avoid opioid addiction. Despite the negative consequences, people will continue to use opioids because of the urge they have for the drug.


  1. Blow, Fredric C., Bonar, Erin E., Lin, Lewei A., Walton, Maureen A. (2016).
  2. Trajectories of nonmedical use of prescription opioids among adolescents in primary care. Addiction Research and Theory, 24(6), 514-520. DOI: 10.1080/16066359.2016.1178244.
  3. Boyd, Carol, McCabe, Sean E., Veliz, Phillip T. (2013). Playing through pain: sports participation and nonmedical use of opioid medications among adolescents. American Jouranl od Public Health, 103(5), 28-30. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301242.
  4. McCabe, S. E., West, B. T., Veliz, P., McCabe, V. V., Stoddard, S. A., & Boyd, C. J. (2017, April 01). Trends in Medical and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Opioids Among US Adolescents: 1976–2015. Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/139/4/e20162387
  5. Office of Adolescent Health. (2017, November 29). Opioids and Adolescents. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/substance-use/drugs/opioids/index.html
  6. Partnership News Service. (n.d.). Newly Approved Opioid 10 Times Stronger Than Fentanyl – Partnership News Service from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Retrieved from https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/newly-approved-opioid-10-times-stronger-than-fentanyl/
  7. Public Affairs. (n.d.). What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic? Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html
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Opioid Use in Adolescents Essay. (2021, Mar 17). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from

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