Prescription Drug Misuse in America

Free report provided by Quest Diagnostics

The growth in opioid abuse has been called an epidemic, and for good reason: Between 2014 and 2015, overdose drug deaths in the United States increased by 11%, from 47,055 to 52,404, primarily driven by heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (such as fentanyl). In the same period, overdose deaths from heroin rose 20%, from 10,574 to 12,989, and deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone rose a staggering 72%, from 5,544 to 9,580.

Yet, treatment of pain, especially chronic pain, is a major challenge for medical professionals, and opioids can provide significant relief for some patients. Moreover, opioids are not the only prescription drugs that may be misused. Ensuring proper use is also clinically challenging for anti-anxiety medications and drug treatments for attention deficit disorder, for instance.

A prescription drug monitoring program involving analysis of laboratory data can play a significant role in maximizing the benefit and minimizing the risk of harm to the patient and to the community. In the sixth edition of the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ Prescription Drug Monitoring Report: Prescription Drug Misuse in America, we present an analysis of prescription drug use and misuse rates in the United States based on 3.4 million de-identified prescription drug monitoring test results performed by Quest Diagnostics between 2011 and 2016.

Quest Diagnostics provides laboratory testing services that help healthcare providers identify appropriate and inappropriate use of several widely prescribed, but abuse-prone, drugs, including opioids and other pain medications, and central nervous system depressant medications. The services also help healthcare providers identify use of illicit drugs, including marijuana (which remains a Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule I drug), cocaine, and heroin.

Laboratory test results provide objective information that can assist healthcare providers with assessing patients’ use of prescribed medications, other controlled prescription medications, and illicit drugs.

Quest Diagnostics provides a comprehensive range of prescription drug monitoring laboratory services to aid clinical assessment using tandem mass spectrometry and other state-of-the-art laboratory technologies.

The present analysis includes test results from patients in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and from a range of practice settings. Test results from substance use treatment clinics and addiction specialists were excluded from the analysis, given the higher rates of testing and potentially higher rates of inconsistency in populations served in these clinical segments; thus, drug misuse rates are likely even higher than those reported here.

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