Misuse of Legal Drugs Raises Drug Abuse Risk

March 3, 2008

College students who report non-medical use of prescription drugs are more likely than those who have only used such medications for their intended purpose to test positive for drug abuse, according to a report in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

MONDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- College students who report non-medical use of prescription drugs are more likely than those who have only used such medications for their intended purpose to test positive for drug abuse, according to a report in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conducted a Web-based survey of 3,639 college students at a large, Midwestern university. The mean age of the sample was 19.9 years and 53.6 percent were female. The students were asked to report medical and non-medical use of four classes of prescription drugs: opioids, stimulants, sleeping pills and sedatives/anti-anxiety medications.

While 40.1 percent of respondents said they had never used any of the four classes of drugs, 39.7 percent reported they had used them for medical purposes, 4.4 percent had used them for non-medical purposes and 15.8 percent reported both medical and non-medical use. Compared with non-users, non-medical users of the four classes of drugs were 6.5 times more likely to have a positive drug-screening test result, while medical users and non-users had the same odds of a positive result for drug screening.

"Drug abuse screening should be routine for college students, especially among individuals with any history of non-medical use of prescription drugs," the author concludes.

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