In a study released last week, CDC researchers analyzed data spanning 2008 to 2011 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), focusing on frequent non-medical opioid users. The CDC defined the population with the highest risk of opioid overdose as those who use prescription opioids non-medically 200 or more days a year. Within this group, people obtained opioids through their own prescriptions 27 percent of the time. Other major sources of opioids for non-medical users include receiving free opioids from friends or relatives (26 percent), buying from friends and relatives (23 percent), and buying from drug dealers (15 percent).
These findings call for a multi-prong approach to prevent opioid abuse. Law enforcement and prescription take-back programs can only address part of the problem; health care providers need to monitor opioid users and prescribers for potential abuse and take action against inappropriate prescribing.