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Addict Behav. 2005 Aug;30(7):1342-50.

Sources of prescription drugs for illicit use.

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  • 1University of Michigan, Substance Abuse Research Center, 2025 Traverwood Dr., Suite C, Ann Arbor, MI 48105-2194, United States.



This exploratory study investigated the sources of four classes of abusable prescription medications (sleeping, sedative/anxiety, stimulant, and pain medications) that were used illicitly by undergraduate students in the past year. The relationship between these sources and other substance use was examined.


In the spring of 2003, a random sample of 9,161 undergraduate students attending a large public Midwestern research university was selected to self-administer a Web-based survey.


The respondents identified 18 sources of prescription drugs that were classified into three broad categories: peer, family, and other sources. The majority of respondents who were illicit users obtained their prescription drugs from peer sources. Undergraduate students who obtained prescription medication from peer sources reported significantly higher rates of alcohol and other drug use than students who did not use prescription drugs illicitly or students who obtained prescription medication from family sources.


The findings of the present study offer strong evidence that undergraduate students obtain abusable prescription drugs from their peers. Greater prevention efforts are needed to reduce the illicit use and diversion of prescription medication.

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