Half of Americans Taking Meds Engage In Abuse of Prescription Drugs, Says Quest Diagnostics
According to a large analysis of lab test results, the majority of patients taking prescription medications exhibit signs of engaging in prescription drug abuse, including potentially hazardous drug combinations.
The Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study culled the information from the company’s laboratory database. It is thought to be among the most extensive national datasets of objective lab information on patients who are prescribed opioids and other abused medications.
The report was released at the medical conference during PAINWeek 2017, which was held in Las Vegas on September 5th-9th. It examined 3.4 million prescription drug monitoring laboratory tests conducted by Quest Diagnostics between 2011-2016.
Investigators discovered that although evidence of abuse of prescription drugs has declined in the last few years, more than half (52%) of test results revealed evidence of possible misuse in 2016. This finding suggests that a slight majority of patients used their prescription medications in ways that were not indicated by their doctor.
Still, this is a decrease from 2011, when nearly two-thirds (63%) of test results were inconsistent with the doctors’ orders.
The study also revealed troubling patterns of combination drug and alcohol use. Among the more than 33,000 specimens tested for opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, more than 20% were positive for both opioids and benzodiazepines, one in ten tested positive for both opioids and alcohol, and 3% were positive for opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines.
When several different nervous system depressants are used in conjunction, the likelihood of an overdose increases exponentially.
Also, the study found that 19% of specimens that tested positive for heroin were also positive for illicit fentanyl – a drug that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. On its own, even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be lethal.
Researchers also found that drug abuse rates were significant among many age groups and both men and women. The only group that revealed marked improvement were adolescents aged 10-17, whose rate of misuse dropped from 70 percent to 29 percent from 2011-2016.
Men and women of reproductive age had higher rates of misuse (58%) than others in the study population (52%).
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology