News & Updates Resources

With funding from FORE, a team of Urban Institute researchers recently published a series of studies uncovering new insights about substance use among youth and young adults, as well as opportunities to intervene.

They found roughly 3 million young people (ages 12–25) reported using heroin or opioid pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the last year. They also found adolescents and young adults who identify as two or more races reported more unhealthy opioid use than any other group.

The Urban Institute researchers also examined the extent to which Medicaid-enrolled adolescents who reported unhealthy opioid use — that is, either the use of heroin or the use of opioid pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor — received substance use screenings and treatment for substance use disorders.

The Medicaid program is central to efforts to address substance use among youth because it covers close to 40 percent of U.S. residents under the age of 19. They found that while Medicaid-enrolled adolescents with OUD or other unhealthy opioid use have frequent contact with health care providers, less than half were screened for substance use in medical settings. Fewer than one in 20 received treatment. To read about these and other findings, see our new data brief.