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
Original Paper



Little is known about nonmedical use of prescription drugs among non-college-attending young adults in the United States.


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.


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.


There is a need for young adult prevention and intervention programs to target nonmedical prescription drug use beyond college campuses.


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



Dr. Martins is currently a consultant for Purdue Pharma. All other authors have no conflict of interest to declare. The data reported herein come from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) public use files and made publicly available by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This study was partially funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse-National Institutes of Health (NIDA-NIH grant DA023434, Martins; NIDA-NIH grant K01DA030449, Cerdá; NIDA- NIH T32DA031099, Hasin), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development- National Institutes of Health, (NICHD- NIH grant HD020667, Martins); and the National institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health (NIAAA grant K01AA021511, Keyes). NIDA, NICHD and SAMHSA had no further role in the data analysis or interpretation of results.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvia S. Martins
    • 1
  • June H. Kim
    • 1
  • Lian-Yu Chen
    • 2
  • Deysia Levin
    • 1
  • Katherine M. Keyes
    • 1
  • Magdalena Cerdá
    • 1
  • Carla L. Storr
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyMailman School of Public HealthNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Taipei City Psychiatric CenterTaipei City HospitalTaipeiTaiwan
  3. 3.Department of Family and Community HealthUniversity of Maryland School of NursingBaltimoreUSA

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