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Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 Mar;24(3):869-77. doi: 10.1185/030079908X273435. Epub 2008 Feb 8.

Non-medical use and abuse of commonly prescribed medications.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO 80262, USA.



The steep escalation in non-medical use and abuse of prescription medications in recent years has begun to seriously affect public health, calling for increased clinician awareness. Effective action and collaborative efforts are required to reduce prescription drug abuse while ensuring that availability of needed prescription medications for the majority of patients who use them appropriately is not inadvertently diminished.


To educate physicians, clinicians, and other healthcare providers about the scope of non-medical prescription drug abuse and effective clinical management strategies to reduce abuse and diversion of prescription medications.


Articles were identified through PubMed and PsycINFO searches (January 2000 to November 2007). Search terms included combinations of 'prescription drug abuse', 'substance abuse', and 'non-medical use of prescription drugs'. Government agency Web sites were searched for additional references.


Data from recent national surveys and other published reports indicate that the lifetime prevalence of non-medical prescription drug use/abuse in the United States is approximately 20% (48 million persons aged > or = 12 years). Public health concern is further heightened by a significant increase in past-month use among adolescents (3.3% of 12-17 year olds) and young adults (6.4% of 18-25 year olds) and the vulnerability of a growing elderly population.


Increased clinician awareness of the scope, demographics, and current trends in prescription medication abuse can be used to enhance screening and effective clinical management skills and strategies to reduce abuse and diversion of prescription drugs without compromising access to needed medications for the majority of patients who use them appropriately.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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