Most people who use opioid painkillers without a physician's prescription initially get them from friends or relatives for free, but as the number of days of use increase sources for the medications expand to include prescriptions from physicians and purchases from friends, relatives, drug dealers or strangers. Little research has examined whether the source of opioid medication differs by the frequency of nonmedical use.
The authors of a new paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine, used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (in which people were asked about the frequency of nonmedical use, the type of opioid pain reliever used and the source of the opioid used most recently) to examine the sources of opioid pain relievers for nonmedical use and compare them with the frequency of use by individuals.
Of the estimated annual 12 million nonmedical users, most were men. Most nonmedical users obtained the medication for free from friends and relatives. However the source of the pain relievers varied based on frequency of use. As days of use increased, opioid medications were obtained from other sources, including prescriptions from physicians and buying the medication from friends, relatives, drug dealers or strangers. Opioid pain relievers used non-medically were most frequently prescribed by a physician for users who reported 200 to 365 days of use.
"These results underscore the need for interventions targeting prescribing behaviors, in addition to those targeting medication sharing, selling and diversion. The essential steps health care providers can take to curb this serious health problem include more judicious prescribing, use of prescription drug-monitoring programs and screening patients for abuse risk before prescribing opioids."
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