Adolescent Health

Studying (and Preventing) Nonmedical Opioid Use Among Adolescents

September 15, 2022

In 2020, Associate Professor Renee M. Johnson and colleagues reviewed Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey & Youth Tobacco Survey data to assess links between adverse childhood experiences and opioid use among high school students in Baltimore City. They also reviewed city and state websites with resources on overdose prevention to determine whether they resonate with adolescents.   

The team found that adverse childhood experiences are common among Baltimore high school students, and they are associated with substantially increased likelihood of lifetime non-medical prescription opioid use and heroin use. Read more about these findings in an op-ed written by Dr. Johnson.

In addition, in their review of 47 websites, the team uncovered that none mentioned that youth could legally access naloxone and that most were rated as unappealing to youth.    

The team shared their findings with the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore City Public School System, Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, and the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center.  

Delegate Robbyn Lewis (District 46) used these findings in 2021 to successfully advocate for the creation of a new statewide Commission on Trauma-Informed Care. This new Commission will coordinate a statewide initiative to prioritize the trauma-informed delivery of state services that impact children, youth, families, and older adults. Johnson assisted with drafting the legislation and presented the scientific evidence supporting its successful passage.  

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