Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ Study Finds Drug Misuse Rates Remain Constant at High Levels, and Dangerous Opioid-related Drug Combining Is Prevalent
Based on 3.9 million de-identified test results performed for patients by
To access the full report, go to www.QuestPDMReport.com.
"The majority of patients continue to show evidence of drug misuse, and this problem affects all age groups and both genders. When it comes to drug misuse, everyone is at risk," said lead author
Among general care patients, who account for more than nine in ten of patients tested by
Report reveals dangerous opioid-related drug combining
The Health Trends report additionally found that drug mixing is the most common type of misuse. One in five (20 percent) test results showed potentially dangerous concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines in 2017. In almost two-thirds of these cases (64 percent), at least one of the drugs was not prescribed. Patients who were older and in
In addition, the report found that mixing of heroin and fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine – is on the rise. Heroin and fentanyl belong to the opioid class of drugs, and combinations of the two can powerfully depress respiration. Among the patient test results that were positive for heroin, 83 percent were also positive for non-prescribed fentanyl, nearly double the rate in 2016 (45 percent).
"Quest's Drug Misuse in America 2018 report provides sobering data-driven insight into one of the most pressing health issues facing our country. It highlights the need for a sharper focus on patients with substance use disorders," commented
Additional findings in the Health Trends report include:
- Gabapentin misuse is on the rise. While use of non-prescribed gabapentin increased slightly among general care patients (up 1.8 percent), it surged by nearly 800 percent among patients in treatment for SUD, the most dramatic rate of increase of any of the drug classes tracked by Quest. Eight percent of the substance use disorder treatment population used non-prescribed gabapentin, compared to 9.6 percent of the general care population. While the medication is generally not addictive in itself, gabapentin can exaggerate the effects of opioids. Research shows that individuals taking prescription opioids and gabapentin concomitantly have a 49 percent greater risk for opioid-related death than those treated with opioids only.1
- Use of medical marijuana surged by nearly 620 percent overall, with the general care population experiencing the highest rate of increase. Just over two percent (2.1 percent) of the general care population used medical marijuana, compared to less than one-half of one percent (0.4 percent) of the substance use disorder treatment population. Recreational marijuana use dropped more than 5 percent across both populations, though its overall rate of use, at 14.7 percent, was still higher than medical marijuana. "Medical" and "recreational" use of marijuana was determined based on information about the medication regimen provided by the patient's physician.
- Cocaine use declined while use of non-prescribed amphetamines rose, driven by sharp increases among patients in substance use disorder treatment. Among stimulants, the use of cocaine declined by 40 percent among all patients tested, but use of non-prescribed amphetamines increased, driven by surging rates of use among patients in treatment for SUD.
"Our data suggests that some physicians and patients may be turning to alternative sources of pain relief, perhaps in response to mounting controls on opioid prescribing," said report co-author
The report's methodology, including the strengths and limitations of Quest data, is described in detail on page 16 of the report which is available for download at www.QuestPDMReport.com.
About Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™
Quest Diagnostics manages the largest database of de-identified clinical laboratory data, based on 44 billion laboratory test results. From this data, the company derives clinically significant insights that empower patients, healthcare practitioners and policymakers to improve health. Developed in collaboration with top researchers and institutions, Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ studies are published in peer-reviewed medical journals and by the company as a public service. Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ reports have yielded novel insights to aid the management of allergies and asthma, clinical (prescription) drug monitoring, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, influenza and wellness. The company also produces the Drug Testing Index (DTI)™, a series of reports on national workplace drug positivity trends. More information about the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends studies can be found at QuestDiagnostics.com/HealthTrends.
1 Gabapentin, opioids, and the risk of opioid-related death: A population-based nested case–control study. Gomes T et al. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002396.
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Kim Gorode, Quest Diagnostics (Media): 973-520-2800, Chris Hippolyte, Syneos Health (Media): 212-364-0458, Shawn Bevec, Quest Diagnostics (Investors): 973-520-2900