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SAMHSA Report Shows the Usage of Non-Medical Pain Relievers Across The Nation


Prescription drug misuse is still one of the most prevalent illicit drug problems in the nation

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that 4.31 percent of people aged 12 or older in the U.S. used prescription pain relievers non-medically in the past year. When taken without a physician's direction, prescription opioid pain relievers can lead to a higher risk of serious adverse consequences such as substance use disorder, overdose, or death.

The report also shows variations in use by state, indicating that rates of past year nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among those aged 12 or older ranged from 3.41 percent in Minnesota to 5.31 percent in Oklahoma.

SAMHSA research has found that the vast majority of people who take prescription pain relievers do not misuse them, however their non-medical misuse is second only to marijuana use as the nation's most prevalent illicit drug problem.

“Prescription pain relievers when used properly for their intended purpose can be of enormous benefit to patients, but their nonmedical use can lead to addiction, serious physical harm and even death,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto. “We must educate the public on the serious health risks involved, train prescribers to recognize signs of misuse, and provide evidence-based treatment to those who need it.”

The report shows that the states in the highest quintile of past year nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers included Oklahoma (5.31 percent), Alabama (5.24 percent), Arkansas (5.21 percent), and Nevada (5.20 percent). States in the lowest quintile of estimates of past year nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers included Massachusetts (3.49 percent), Vermont (3.49 percent), Florida (3.47 percent), Montana (3.46 percent), and Minnesota (3.41 percent). The report also shows that nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers decreased between 2010-2012 and 2012-2014 in the nation as a whole and in 13 states.

The NSDUH Report: State and Substate Estimates of Nonmedical Use of Prescription Pain Reliever, is based on combined 2012-2014 data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. The full report is available at:

Opioid pain relievers have played a significant role in driving the nation’s opioid epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified five specific strategies to address the opioid crisis: improving access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services; targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; strengthening timely public health data and reporting; supporting cutting-edge research; and advancing the practice of pain management.

Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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