Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Donna Dennis

2nd Supervisor

Jan Polgar

Joint Supervisor


Prescription drugs ranked as the third highest substance used/abused among Canadian youth (Health Canada, 2014). This research is a retrospective phenomenological study on child and youth prescription drug abuse. Currently, there is a lack of qualitative research in this area. The primary goal of this study is to understand the lived experiences of child and youth prescription drug abuse in order to provide greater depth and breadth into the complexities of this behaviour. Based on the aim of this study, I developed the following research question: what are the lived experiences of prescription drug abuse during childhood and adolescence? Six participants were recruited from Narcotics Anonymous. Most of the participants were interviewed twice, in a face-to-face, semi-structured format. Participants were asked questions about their prescription drug abuse experiences. Two themes emerged as a result of thematic analysis: ‘risk factors’ and ‘lived experiences of prescription drug abuse.’ The socialization and normalization of prescription drugs emerged as key risk factors for the facilitation of prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse provided temporary health benefits, but also produced a number of serious health detriments for some of the participants in this study. As such, the participants perceived their abuse of these drugs as either unproblematic, or as an addiction. More importantly, some of the participants struggled with determining whether or not they were actually addicted to these drugs. Ultimately, this study expands our current knowledge and understanding of child and youth prescription drug abuse.