prescription-drug-abusePrescription drug abuse among young adults is one facet of what has become an epidemic facing America. In many cases, people are introduced to prescription narcotics before they leave high school, often setting the stage for continued use into young adulthood. New research indicates that young adults who do not attend college are more likely to abuse prescription painkillers, compared to their peers who are enrolled in higher education, HealthDay reports.

While non college students may abuse prescription opioids more than their peers in school, the research found that college students were more likely to abuse prescription stimulants, such as Adderall or Ritalin. Prescription stimulant abuse among college students is often the result of students feeling over extended from their heavy workloads and needing extra energy to study for exams.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from almost 37,000 young adults ages 18 to 22. The findings showed that 13.2 percent of non-high school graduates reported non-medical use of narcotic painkillers. The study found that 13.1 percent of high school graduates who were not attending college reported using opioids for nonmedical reasons. Of those attending college, 11.3 percent reported using prescription opioids.

The research indicated that there was a stronger link between education level and painkiller abuse in women than in men. About 30 percent of all U.S. young adults do not enroll in some form of higher learning.

“Our findings clearly show there is a need for young adult prevention and intervention programs to target nonmedical prescription drug use beyond college campuses,” researcher Dr. Silvia Martins of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said in a . “This age group is particularly vulnerable to the development of adverse substance-using patterns, due in part to the process of identity formation that emerges at this developmental stage.”

The findings appear in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.