Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use and Use Disorders Among Adults Aged 18 Through 64 Years in the United States, 2003-2013

Opioid abuse has become a ubiquitous problem in the United States, one that leads to violence, pilfering, negligence, and all of the other vices associated with drug abuse. A unique aspect of painkiller abuse is the fact that the drugs are often obtained illegally from medical professionals instead of shady street corner dealers. Studying the patterns of opioid abuse are crucial to understanding the role that healthcare providers, especially pharmacists, can play in stopping this epidemic.

This particular study produced two interestingly yet insightfully contradictory results. It found that nonmedical use of prescription opioids decreased over the duration of this study, but the prevalence of prescription opioid use disorders increased. This means that although recreational use of prescription opioids is decreasing in popularity (albeit likely more due to the increased availability of heroin in recent years than any sort of anti-drug abuse policy), the symptoms of abuse are increasing in frequency. Essentially, people are still abusing prescription opioids at increasing rates, they either do so under the veil of a false or obsolete diagnosis, or they truly have an abuse problem relating to the severity of the pain which they experience.

This study highlights the immense importance which the pharmacists and physicians have in preventing and alleviating prescription drug abuse. Abuse through medically prescribed opioids is often preventable, and can be prevented by playing an active role in counseling patients on these risky drugs. Pharmacists play an integral role in preventing drug abuse.

Han B, Compton WM, Jones CM, Cai R. Nonmedical prescription opiod use and use disorders among adults aged 16-64 years in the United States, 2003-2013. Jama. 2015: 314(14): 1468-1478.

2 thoughts on “Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use and Use Disorders Among Adults Aged 18 Through 64 Years in the United States, 2003-2013”

  1. Living in Allegheny, where opioid addiction is apparently a problem, this study caught my attention. I’m still a little confused how prescription opioid disorders can decrease but prescription can decrease. Is the study showing that people are just turning to heroin and other street drugs because of the prescription medications?

    My takeaway is this; If heroin use is increasing along with opioid abuse, how can we as pharmacists help lower abuse if people are turning to street drugs? Hopefully keeping people off prescription opioids early will keep them from turning to heroin later.

  2. I agree that it is important for pharmacists to take their role in preventing prescription drug abuse very seriously. It is alarming to think about how patients may be abusing them undercover of a false claim diagnosis. I think that we need to be conscientious of what we are filling for whom, and it is important to handle every patient interaction regarding prescription opioids with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is also important to recognize that patients who do in fact need them are truly experiencing an abuse problem, and we are an important resource for that. I think that every prescription for C2’s, particularly opioids, should have to be accompanied by pharmacist counseling on the proper way to take the medications and the potential risks for addiction and resources to turn to if that is an issue for patients.

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