52% of adults misuse prescription meds: 5 report findings

More than half of Americans misuse their prescription medications, according to Quest Diagnostics' 2017 Health Trends Report.

To compile the report, researchers analyzed 3.4 million de-identified laboratory test results from patients in various clinical settings across all 50 states. Quest Diagnostics performed the tests between 2011 and 2016. Researchers looked for inconsistent test results, defined as the absence of prescribed drugs or the presence of illicit or non-prescribed drugs.

Here are five report findings.

  1. Fifty-two percent of test results were inconsistent in 2016, which suggests more than half of patients misused their medications. Of these cases, 43 percent involved the use of a non-prescribed or illicit drug.

  1. The 2016 misuse rate dropped from 2011, when 63 percent of patients' test results were inconsistent. Drug misuse rates for patients aged 10 to 17 years fell from 70 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2016.

  1. Drug misuse rates were higher for patients of reproductive age (58 percent) compared to the general study population (52 percent).

  1. Of 33,000 lab specimens tested for opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol, more than 20 percent were positive for both opioids and benzodiazepines. More than 10 percent were positive for both alcohol and opioids, and 3 percent were positive for all three substances.

  1. Nineteen percent of specimens that tested positive for heroin were also positive for non-prescribed fentanyl. Taking heroin and fentanyl at the same time greatly heightens to risk of death from a drug overdose.

To view the full report, click here.

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