The Legal High: Factors Affecting Young Consumers’ Risk Perceptions and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

Richard Netemeyer, University of Virginia
Scot Burton, University of Arkansas
Barbara Delaney, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Gina Hijjawi, AIR

A recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that nearly one-third of people aged 12 years and older who used drugs illegally for the first time began by using a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose. Over the past decade, adolescent prescription drug abuse has become such a serious public health problem that it is now classified as an epidemic. In addition, people who abuse prescription drugs are also at greater risk for engaging in other maladaptive behaviors.

This study used results from survey response data from more than 1,000 13- to 18-year-olds from 40 geographically dispersed areas in the United States. It found that the effects of adolescent anxiety, the need to be popular, being a "good teen,’’ and the use of other restricted substances have both nonlinear effects and interaction effects with demographic characteristics on prescription drug abuse risk perceptions and on prescription drug use itself. Perceptions of the risk of that abuse partially mediate these effects. The authors offer implications of the pattern of results for consumer welfare and public policy.


This article is published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing and is copyrighted by the American Marketing Association. Permission has been obtained to reproduce the article.