Oxycontin, Vicodin Users Get "Leftover" Drugs From Friends and Family

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The majority of people who abuse opioid painkillers were willingly given the drug by a friend or relative.

The Study

Analysis of a 2008 survey of 5300 adults in Utah found that during the past year, nearly 2% had taken an opioid painkiller not prescribed to them. 97% of the time, the drug came from a friend or relative who did have a prescription.

  • 85.2% of respondents who had abused an opioid painkiller without a prescription were given the drug willingly by someone with a prescription.
  • 9.8% of respondents admitted taking the drug without the knowledge of the prescription-holder.
  • Only 4.1% purchased the drug.

What Does This Mean?

Over the past decade, overdose deaths due to opioids have increased sharply. In Utah, where the study was conducted, fatal poisoning from prescription painkillers increased by almost 600%. Misuse of these drugs is increasing, and part of the problem is that patients hold onto their leftover drugs even when they no longer need them. While it can be tempting to hold onto unused drugs in case you need them in the future, it's important to realize that even using medication you were prescribed is considered drug abuse if it is not being taken for the illness it was prescribed for.

This study underscores the danger of keeping unused pills--having them around makes them available for abuse by yourself and your loved ones. Since the vast majority of opioid painkiller abusers received pills from friends and family, not having unneeded pills available could make a huge difference in the number of opioid-related addictions and deaths.

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