Young people unaware of dangers posed by opioid use

WASHINGTON — The United States is facing an epidemic of opioid use — from prescription painkillers to heroin. The risks of heroin use are well known — but far too many young people appear unaware of the danger posed by those legal pain pills.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and the Christie Foundation recently commissioned a survey of 1,200 college-aged teens and 20-somethings and found many don’t really realize just how risky opioid painkillers can be. 

Sixteen percent said they had used opioid painkillers prescribed for someone else at some point in their lives, about a third said these drugs are easy to get, and 37 percent admitted they would not know where to get help if they or a friend experienced an overdose.

The chief medical officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Dr. Marvin D. Sepalda, says “prescription pain pills are similar to having heroin in the medicine cabinet.”

He says it’s clear from this survey that young people don’t fully grasp the dangers connected to these opioid drugs — both on and off college campuses.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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