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Addict Behav. 2010 Nov;35(11):1001-7. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.06.018. Epub 2010 Jun 22.

Gender and prescription opioids: findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Clinical Neuroscience Division, Medical University of South Carolina, 125 Doughty St., PO Box 250861, Charleston, SC 29425, United States.



Significant gender differences in drug and alcohol use have been reported; however, little is known about gender differences in prescription opioid misuse and dependence. This study compared correlates, sources and predictors of prescription opioid non-medical use, as well as abuse or dependence among men and women in a nationally-representative sample.


Participants were 55,279 (26,746 men, 28,533 women) non-institutionalized civilians aged 12years and older who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.


Rates of lifetime and past-year non-medical use of prescription opiates were 13.6% and 5.1%, respectively. Significantly more men than women endorsed lifetime (15.9% vs. 11.2%) and past-year use (5.9% vs. 4.2%; ps<0.0001). Among past-year users, 13.2% met criteria for current prescription opiate abuse or dependence, and this did not differ significantly by gender. Polysubstance use and treatment underutilization were common among both men and women, however significantly fewer women than men had received alcohol or drug abuse treatment (p=0.001). Men were more likely than women to obtain prescription opioids for free from family or friends, and were more likely to purchase them from a dealer (ps<.01). Gender-specific predictors of use as compared to abuse/dependence were also observed.


The findings highlight important differences between men and women using prescription opiates. The observed differences may help enhance the design of gender-sensitive surveillance, identification, prevention and treatment interventions.

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