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Key to preventing prescription drug misuse is understanding the motivation behind it. A new report from SAMHSA sheds some light on why adults are misusing the most common types of prescription medication. The conclusion: Most people who misuse these drugs are doing so for the very reason that the substance is typically prescribed, and comparatively few were misusing the prescription drug because they were trying to get high.
For example, about 11 million adults reported they misused prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone or oxycodone at least once in 2015; about 63% of them said it was to relieve physical pain,
which is the purpose of the drug. Other reasons included to feel good or get high (11.7%), to relax or relieve tension (10.9%), to help with sleep (4.5%), to help with feelings or emotions (3.2%), are “hooked” and had to have it (2.5%), experimented to see what it’s like (2%), and to increase or decrease effects of other drugs (0.9%).
Similarly, the study found that the most common reasons for misusing prescription tranquilizers such as Xanax or Soma were in line with the reasons they are prescribed: to relax or relieve tension (46.2%) and to help with sleep (21.2%).
The most common reasons for misusing prescription stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin are to help that individual be alert or stay awake (28.4%), to help concentrate (26.2%), and to help study (22.4%). Lastly, the vast majority of misused sedatives are the result of needing help with sleep (73.2%).
A deep dive into the data reveals how these adults (18 or older) obtain prescription painkillers. The majority—53.6%—of those who misused pain medication said they got their pain relievers from a friend or relative. Roughly 4 out of 5 of them obtained the drugs for free, but some bought it (9.7%) and some (3.4%) took it without asking. About one-third (34.9%) of those who misused prescription pain relievers said they had a prescription from one doctor for their pain reliever; just 1.7% said they had prescriptions from more than one doctor. A mere 4.9% of those misusing prescription pain relievers bought them from a drug dealer or some other stranger.
What can we take away from the data? The report’s authors conclude: “[The study] suggests that physicians and other medical practitioners may consider talking with their patients or clients about the potential health consequences of misusing their prescriptions, not sharing their prescription medications, preventing others from accessing their medications, and disposing of remaining dosage units.”
To look at the complete data set, click here.
Posted Oct 20, 2017
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