Addiction specialists are increasingly worried about the high school gateway to opioid abuse as they find themselves treating more addicts in their 20s who got started earlier in life, reports the USA Today Network-Tennessee. It can begin innocently enough. Two percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 misused a psychotherapeutic drug (a pain reliever, stimulant, tranquilizer and sedatives) in 2015, says the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That number rises dramatically to 5.1 percent for the group between 18 and 25. Some start using painkillers before they receive a diploma, setting the stage for a downward spiral in the years that followed.
For some, the introduction to pain pills — Tramadol, hydrocodone, oxycodone, among others — happens during formative high school years: through an oral surgery prescription or a well-meaning parent hoping to relieve some pain. It can happen in a high school locker room before a football game, to dull the pain. Or before a party, to loosen up. In Tennessee, there is some reason for optimism. State analysis indicates the number of youths in the state who used a painkiller fell from 9 percent to 5 percent between 2004 and 2014.