The LGBT Health & Development Program

Prescription Drug Misuse and LGBT Youth

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by Alan in Youth Blog. No Comments

Prescription drug abuse has become a major issue in the United States, and has been getting quite a bit of media attention. While using prescription medication is not abuse when taken as prescribed by a medical doctor or the similar, it becomes misuse when the prescription drugs are taken beyond the recommended dosage, or by others for whom the drugs were not prescribed. Some commonly misused and abused drugs are Xanax, Adderall, and OxyContin. Researchers from several institutions have teamed up to give us a better insight as to how and when prescription drug abuse begins, and to gain a better understanding of its relation to LGBT youth.

In a recent article in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers describe their study, which was performed on 596 people who reported misuse prescription medications. The study participants were between the ages of 16 and 25 in Los Angeles and New York, and one-third identified as LGBT.

The researchers conducting the study found that young adults who abuse prescription drugs often started doing so in adolescence, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. For LGBT youth specifically, the research team found that the LGBT participants were more likely to start misusing their prescription drugs at an earlier age than their heterosexual counterparts. It was also found that LGBT participants more often reported some sort of childhood abuse than their heterosexual counterparts, which included physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Despite these differences pointed out by the study, the main predictor of the initiation into prescription drug misuse is age of first prescription. This means that youth are more likely to misuse and abuse prescription drugs if they are easily accessible, particularly if the drugs were actually prescribed for them.

The researchers state that further exploration into the events that surround the start of this kind of drug use is needed. They also state that as a result of their findings, it may help to offer education about prescription drug misuse at an earlier age for LGBT individuals, in order to help offset this trend.



Kecojevic, A., Wong, F. W., Schrager, S. M., Silve, K., Bloom, J. J., Iverson, E., & Lankenau, S. E. (2012). Initiation into prescription drug misuse: Differences between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and heterosexual high-risk young adults in Los Angeles and New York. Addictive    Behaviors, 37, 1289-1293

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