However, the study found no difference between rural and urban teens in the use of illicit drugs.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine analyzed National Survey on Drug Use and Health results from 17,872 teens, who were 53.2% urban dwellers, 51% male and 59% white.
The study found that 13% of rural teens, aged 12 to 17, misused prescription drugs, compared to 10% of urban teens. There was no difference between the two groups in rates of use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens.
Linked to Other Behaviors
Rural teens were more likely to use pain relievers, 11.5% compared to 10.3%, and more likely to use tranquilizers, 3.5% compared to 2.5%.
Non-medical use of prescription drugs among this age group is a problem because it has been shown in other studies to lead to the use of illicit drugs, especially cocaine and heroin. It is also linked to gambling, increased sexual activity and impulsivity, the study said.
Also, if teens begin using prescription drugs early in life, they have a much greater chance of becoming addicted.
The researchers also found that rural teens were significantly less likely to use prescription drugs if they lived in a household with two parents and if they were enrolled in school.
The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine online edition in November 2010.