This study explored adolescents' perspectives on prescription opioids, opioid safety and misuse, and sources of opioid information.


High school students participated in focus groups that elicited information about adolescent perspectives on prescription opioids and opioid safety. Demographic information was collected. Focus groups consisted of 5 to 8 student participants and 2 moderators. Focus groups were audio-recorded and professionally transcribed. Transcript content was thematically analyzed using NVivo.


A total of 54 high school students (59% female, 44% white, 44% Latino) participated in 8 focus groups. Participants ranged from ages 14 to 18 years and grades 9 to 12. Five major themes emerged: 1) perceptions of prescription opioids and misuse; 2) prevalence of prescription opioid misuse; 3) reasons for prescription opioid misuse; 4) consequences of prescription opioid misuse; and 5) sources of medication information. Participants identified examples of misuse and reasons for and consequences of teen opioid misuse, including mental and physical health challenges, peer and family influences, and addiction. Sources of opioid-related information included family, peers, online Web sites, and television shows.


Adolescents had some knowledge pertaining to prescription opioids, but they had misconceptions related to safety. Participants were aware of safety risks and negative consequences of misuse. Adolescents obtained medication information from various sources, including health care professionals, family and peers, and online sources. Educational efforts that target adolescents should provide opportunities for addressing misconceptions about safe and responsible use of medications.

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