• prescription drug misuse;
  • young adult;
  • youth culture;
  • subculture


Introduction and Aims

Youth cultures play a key role in the social organisation of drug trends among young people; the current prescription drug misuse trend is no different. The authors evaluated whether patterns of prescription drug misuse differed across several youth cultures.

Design and Methods

Using field survey methods and time–space sampling during 2011, the authors assessed the patterns and prevalence of prescription drug misuse among young adults who are socially active in various urban youth cultures (n= 1781).


The prevalence of lifetime prescription drug misuse is highest within indie rock scenes (52.5%), electronic dance music scenes (52.1%), lesbian parties (53.8%) and alt scenes (50.9%). Prescription drug misuse was lowest among young adults in hip-hop scenes (25.0%). These findings were upheld in logistic regression analyses that accounted for demographic differences across youth cultures: indie rock scenes (adjusted odds ratio = 2.11), electronic dance music scenes (adjusted odds ratio =2.20), lesbian parties (adjusted odds ratio = 2.30) and alt scenes (adjusted odds ratio = 2.65) all reported statistically significant (P< 0.05) higher odds of misuse than college bar scenes. Recent prescription drug misuse mirrored patterns for lifetime misuse.

Discussion and Conclusions

The differing prevalence of prescription drug misuse across distinct youth cultures suggests that the trend has not diffused equally among young people. The differing prevalence across youth cultures indicates that the most efficacious strategies for youth intervention may be targeted approaches that account for the subculturally rooted differences in attitudes and social norms.