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Baby boomers’ appetite grows for nonmedical use of prescription pain drugs

November 8, 2011
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prescription drugsA study presented at last week’s American Public Health Association meeting in Washington DC by researchers at the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, examined trends in nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among adults aged 50 or older in the U.S.

Researchers studied prevalence and incidence of and factors associated with current (past-year) and previous (lifetime, but not past-year).

The sample included 50,500 adults aged 50 or older from the 2002-2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Results: The prevalence of past-year nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among persons aged 50 or older increased recently as the baby boom cohort ages.

Among adults aged 50 or older, the prevalence of past-year nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers increased from 1.0% in 2002 to 1.6% in 2009.

Past-year initiation (incidence) among past-year users declined from 14.2% (annual average) in 2002-2005 to 6.0% (annual average) in 2006-2009, and 79.3% of past-year users initiated before age 50.

The prevalence of previous use increased from 4.4% in 2002 to 5.8% in 2009, and 90.4% of previous users initiated before age 50.

Multivariate results indicate that younger age, being less educated, reporting past-year use of marijuana or tranquilizers, having past-year substance use disorder, first marijuana use under age 25, and rating their health as fair/poor were associated with current use and previous use relative to never use.

Being less educated, reporting past-year use of marijuana or tranquilizers, and having past-year substance use disorder were associated with current use compared with previous use.

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