Study: Friends common source of abused meds

March 4, 2014 by Lindsey Tanner

Most people who abuse addictive prescription painkillers get them for free from friends or relatives, while drug dealers are a relatively uncommon source for those at highest risk for deadly overdoses, a U.S. government study found.

People who abuse the most frequently often doctor-shop; more than 1 in 4 who used these drugs almost daily said they had been prescribed by one or more physicians. Almost as many said they got them for free from friends or relatives; only 15 percent of the most frequent abusers said they bought the drugs from dealers or other strangers.

Those abusers "are probably using at much greater volumes and simply asking a friend for a pill now and then is not going to be sufficient," said Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, a researcher at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the study, two-thirds of abusers said they used the drugs infrequently and well over half of these users said they got them free from friends or relatives.

Paulozzi and CDC colleagues analyzed four years of nationwide health surveys on nonmedical use of pain relievers including oxycodone and hydrocodone. These include the brand-name pills OxyContin and Vicodin, in a family of drugs called opioids—chemically similar to opium.

The study was published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Paulozzi said overall prevalence of nonmedical use of prescription opioid painkillers has held steady in recent years, at about 12 million, or 1 in 20 people aged 12 and older.

But previous CDC data show overdose deaths involving these drugs more than tripled from 1999 to 2010, with more than 16,000 deaths that year. By contrast, that involved heroin and cocaine totaled less than 8,000, and deaths that involved often-abused that include anti-anxiety medication totaled about 6,500.

A separate study in the same journal presents Tennessee—among states hardest hit by —as a snapshot of the problem. From 2007 through 2011, one-third of Tennessee's population filled an opioid prescription each year, the study found. Nearly 8 percent had used more than four prescribers and these abusers were more than six times more likely to have fatal overdoses than the least frequent users.

The larger nationwide study included data from annual government health surveys for 2008-2011 that included questions about use of these powerful painkillers.

"Nonmedical use was defined as use without a prescription or use with a prescription for the feeling or experience caused by the ," the researchers said.

Paulozzi said the data don't indicate whether friends and relatives who offered free drugs shared their own prescriptions or had obtained the medication in some other way.

Public health messages have urged patients with legitimate for addictive painkillers not to share the drugs and to turn in any leftovers to designated drop-off sites.

The new data suggest a need to strengthen messages to doctors to be on the watch for signs of prescription misuse, Paulozzi said.

Explore further: Many US seniors get prescription painkillers from multiple doctors

Related Stories

Many US seniors get prescription painkillers from multiple doctors

February 19, 2014
(HealthDay)—About one-third of Medicare patients who get prescriptions for powerful narcotic painkillers receive them from multiple doctors, which raises their risk for hospitalization, according to a new study.

Study supports need for more control over prescribed drugs for youths

November 7, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Teens who are prescribed pain relievers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are at "notable risk" for abusing opioid drugs, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Many who first misuse prescription pills get them from friends, family: report

April 25, 2012
(HealthDay) -- A new U.S. government analysis shows that more than 70 percent of people who first misuse prescription medications get those pills from their friends or relatives.

US officials target escalating drug overdoses

February 11, 2014
(HealthDay)—As deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers mount across the United States, government officials are searching for ways to stem the toll of addiction.

FDA orders starker warnings on opioid painkillers

September 10, 2013
The Food and Drug Administration is requiring stronger warning labels on prescription painkillers like OxyContin, in the government's latest attempt to reduce overdose deaths caused by the long-acting medications.

Drug addicts, dealers are 'Doctor shopping' for pain pills

July 18, 2013
(HealthDay)—One of every 50 prescriptions for addictive prescription painkillers in the United States is filled for so-called "doctor shoppers" who obtain the drugs for recreational use or resale on the street, a new study ...

Recommended for you

Patients receive most opioids at the doctor's office, not the ER

January 16, 2018
Around the country, state legislatures and hospitals have tightened emergency room prescribing guidelines for opioids to curb the addiction epidemic, but a new USC study shows that approach diverts attention from the main ...

FDA bans use of opioid-containing cough meds by kids

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Trying to put a dent in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday slapped strict new restrictions on the use of opioid-containing cold and cough products by kids.

Taking ibuprofen for long periods found to alter human testicular physiology

January 9, 2018
A team of researchers from Denmark and France has found that taking regular doses of the pain reliever ibuprofen over a long period of time can lead to a disorder in men called compensated hypogonadism. In their paper published ...

Nearly one-third of Canadians have used opioids: study

January 9, 2018
Nearly one in three Canadians (29 percent) have used "some form of opioids" in the past five years, according to data released Tuesday as widespread fentanyl overdoses continue to kill.

Growing opioid epidemic forcing more children into foster care

January 8, 2018
The opioid epidemic has become so severe it's considered a national public health emergency. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and ...

Price tag on gene therapy for rare form of blindness: $850K

January 3, 2018
A first-of-its kind genetic treatment for blindness will cost $850,000 per patient, making it one of the most expensive medicines in the world and raising questions about the affordability of a coming wave of similar gene-targeting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.