By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Teens who are given prescription narcotic painkillers may run a higher risk of abusing narcotics after high school, a new study suggests.

Researchers said teen painkiller use was associated with a 33 percent increased risk of later abuse. And it was seen mostly among those with little to no history of drug use and those who strongly disapproved of illegal drug use.

“A prescription for a pain reliever can put adolescents at risk for future pain reliever misuse,” said study author Richard Miech, a research professor at the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

For the study, Miech and his colleagues used data that tracked more than 6,200 high school seniors until they were 23.

At first glance, it seems counterintuitive that the increased risk was concentrated among teens who had little experience with illegal drugs, Miech acknowledged.

“This finding may be explained in part by the novelty of drug use effects,” he said. For teens with little to no drug history, a prescription narcotic painkiller is likely to be their first experience with an addictive substance, Miech explained.

“Most likely, the initial experience of pain relief is pleasurable and a safe initial experience may reduce perceived danger,” he said. “A pleasurable and safe initial experience with a drug is a central factor in theories of who goes on to misuse drugs.”

In contrast, among teens with more extensive experience with drugs, the legitimate use of a narcotic pain reliever may make relatively less of an impression in comparison to the other drugs they have used, Miech said.

“Although these experienced individuals may go on to misuse prescription pain relievers, such misuse does not appear to result from an introduction to pain relievers through a legitimate prescription,” he said.

The findings are especially timely in light of the recent decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the use of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin for children ages 11 to 16, he said.

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