Pain relief most reported reason for misuse of opioid pain relievers

More than one third of adults nationwide reported prescription opioid use in 2015, with substantial numbers reporting misuse and use disorders, according to a report compiled to estimate the prevalence of, and explore the motivations for, opioid use and misuse. The data showed that pain relief was most commonly cited as the reason for the misuse of opioids and that close to half of those who misused obtained them free from a family member or friend.

According to the study, based on data collected from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, close to 92 million people (38 percent) used prescription opioids in the prior year. Of these, about 11.5 million misused the drugs, and 1.9 million had an opioid use disorder. Most people (63.4 percent) who misused these medications reported doing so to relieve physical pain. About 41 percent who misused opioids obtained them for free from a friend or relative. Misuse is defined as use of a medication without a prescription, for a reason other than as directed by a physician, or in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed.

The results suggest a need to improve access to evidence-based pain management and to decrease excessive prescribing that may leave unused opioids available for potential misuse. This research could help inform strategies to address prescription opioid misuse and overdose deaths, as well as other related health and social problems. The results also indicate that economic disadvantage and behavioral health problems may be associated with prescription opioid misuse.

For a copy of the paper go to — "Prescription Opioid Use, Misuse, and Use Disorders in U.S. Adults: 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health" — published inAnnals of Internal Medicine,  It was authored by scientists from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is part of the National Institutes of Health, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which conducted the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is also part of HHS.

For information about opioids, go to: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

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