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Prescription Drug Misuse Remains at Alarming Levels, According to National Study by Quest Diagnostics
Date:4/3/2013

mmonly abused prescription medications, such as opioids and sedatives, and illicit drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine.

Consistent results indicate that only the drug or drugs prescribed for the patient were detected. Inconsistent results suggest a patient has misused one or more drugs. Forms of misuse include combining a prescribed drug with other non-prescribed drugs, which can lead to dangerous drug combinations; not taking a prescribed drug, which contributes to healthcare waste and failed treatment; and using other drugs, which indicates illicit drug use without a clinician's oversight.

The study's key findings:

  • Drug misuse continues to be highly prevalent, with three in five patients tested still misusing drugs. Sixty percent of patients tested in 2012 misused their medications, a slight improvement over the 63% inconsistency rate of 2011.
  • Marijuana was the most commonly abused drug, followed closely by opioids. Among patients with inconsistent test results in 2012, evidence of marijuana was found in more than one in four (26%) patient test results, followed by opiates (22%), benzodiazepines (16%), oxycodone (14%), cocaine (8%) and methadone (6%).
  • Drug combinations are a common form of misuse. Of patients with an inconsistent test result in 2012, about one in three, or 33%, tested positive for the prescribed drug and at least one additional drug.
  • Substantial numbers of patients did not take their medications. Among patients with inconsistent results, about 42% did not use their prescribed medication, possibly due to forgetfulness, financial constraints or illegal sales.

The study also found that men and women misused prescription drugs equally. Although misuse rates were above 50% for all government and private health plan categories, Medicaid beneficiaries had the highest rates of misuse, at 70%.

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SOURCE Quest Diagnostics
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