Addiction & Overdose

Preventing Adolescent Substance Use 

August 18, 2022

In 2021, Associate Professor Renee M. Johnson set out to better understand county differences associated with opioid use among Maryland high school students.  

Using data from the 2018 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Shaheen Kurani  found that prevalence of lifetime non-medical prescription opioid use was 10%. They also found that youth in more deprived counties – i.e., counties with a higher score on the area-deprivation index – were more likely to report adverse childhood experiences. Dr. Danielle German was also on the team, and she re-analyzed her ethnographic data on Maryland adults who use drugs to complement their quantitative findings. The qualitative and quantitative data indicate that material deprivation and adverse childhood experiences greatly increase vulnerability for opioid use.   

They concluded that structural interventions to support youth and families in counties with high levels of deprivation could prevent substance use. Examples of structural approaches include increasing food access, family financial support, criminal justice reform, and access to family services and behavioral health care.  

This work was shared with Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center, and implementation of programs that support youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences is now one of 8 goals for reducing heroin use and non-medical prescription opioid use in the state.   

This work has been published in BMC Public Health and the results were presented at the 2021 annual APHA conference and the Society for Prevention Research annual meeting.   

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