One in Two Adolescents Misuse Their Prescription Drugs, Study Shows
However, patients in the 10-17 years age group also showed the greatest improvement in appropriate prescription drug use compared to all other age groups over a four-year period. In 2011, 70% of adolescents tested by
The Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ study, Prescription Drug Misuse in America: Diagnostic Insights in the Continuing Drug Epidemic Battle, is based on an analysis of approximately 2.5 million de-identified test results on patients of all ages in 48 states and the
The study is available at www.QuestDiagnostics.com/HealthTrends
"The Quest analysis shows that while our nation is making great strides to curb drug abuse and misuse, we have a long road ahead before we can declare victory on the prescription drug epidemic," said
The findings of high misuse rates among adolescents follows the
"Having more options for pain relief is a great potential benefit for children experiencing significant pain," said Dr. McClure. "But our data is also a stark reminder that diligent monitoring of prescription drug regimens in young patients is absolutely critical."
Other key findings from the study:
- All patients are at risk of prescription misuse. The high rate of prescription medication misuse (53%) was observed across all age groups and in both genders, as well as across patients enrolled in different types of health plans (
Medicaid, Medicareand private payer).
- The type of drugs misused varies by age. In adults 30 years of age and older, the two drug groups most likely to be misused, based on test results, were oxycodone and opiates. In children less than 10 years of age, amphetamines and opiates were most likely to be implicated in misuse. In patients 10-29 years of age, the leading drug groups associated with evidence of misuse were marijuana and opiates.
- Some states and regions are curbing prescription drug misuse better than others.
California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennesseeall showed marked improvement in their inconsistency rates from 2011-2014. On a regional basis, the Mountain States and Great Plains states ( Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) had the highest inconsistency rate, at 61%, while New Yorkand New Jerseytogether had the lowest inconsistency rate, at 41%.
- Patterns of drug misuse shift over the past four years. The percentage of patients who did not take their medications consistently, suggesting they are skipping doses, increased from 40% in 2011 to 44% in 2014. Additionally, 35% of patients tested in 2014 showed evidence of combining drugs without a clinician's oversight, compared to 32% in 2011, indicating heightened potential for dangerous drug combinations.
The analysis was based on clinical lab testing performed by
Study Strengths and Limitations
The study's strengths are its size and national scope; use of an objective laboratory method, versus surveys or polls, which may be subject to user misrepresentation or error; confirmation of all positive drug screens by mass spectrometry, the most advanced drug testing method; and for consistency rate analysis the inclusion of patients under care by clinicians in a primary care or pain-management setting, but exclusion of those in drug rehabilitation or addiction treatment settings, where unusually high rates of drug misuse may be expected.
Study limitations include geographic disparities; inability to confirm drug misuse through access to medical records or clinical evaluation; and technical factors and patient variations, such as drug metabolism and hydration state, that may affect the reliability of a minority of results. Quest Diagnostics does not provide services to all clinicians in the U.S., so results are not broadly representative of all patients taking prescription medications in the U.S. It is also possible some clinicians tested patients due to appropriate suspicions of drug misuse, and that some clinicians omitted to specify all drugs prescribed for the patient on a test order, skewing some results.
The company's Quest Diagnostics Health Trends studies are performed in compliance with applicable privacy regulations, the company's strict privacy policies and as approved by the
About Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™
Quest Diagnostics Health Trends reports provide diagnostic-based insights into disease and wellness in
[i] Monitoring the Future survey,
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