Prescription opioid misuse is a well-known problem in the United States and in many other countries across the world. Opioid analgesics are usually prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain, and now an increasing rate of misuse and overdose of prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, are being reported in the US. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse in the United States alone is $78.5 billion a year. This economic burden includes the costs of healthcare, addiction treatment, lost productivity, and criminal justice involvement. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also estimates that nearly 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Between 8 and 12 percent of these patients later develop an opioid use disorder.
Now, a new survey-based study of over 9,000 university students reveals that students who misuse prescription opioid medications are more likely to show increased impulsivity. Such students report earlier age of sexual activity, and are less likely to use barrier protection during sexual activity.
In this study, 9,449 university students at a public Midwestern university were asked questions about misuse of prescription opioid medications. The 156‐item survey was designed to obtain demographic information, mental health characteristics, sexual behavior, self‐reported grade point average, and substance use of these students. The participants were also asked questions regarding impulsive behavior including gambling and sexual activity.
According to researchers, 3,522 of 9,449 students completed the survey. About 2.2 percent of these 3,522 students accepted misusing prescription opioids in the last one year. Nearly one in 20 students said they previously misused prescription opioids, but didn’t do it in the past 12 months.
The study revealed that prescription opioid misusers were more likely to live off campus and demonstrate a lower grade point average.
Researchers say this study helps identify several risk factors for students misusing prescription opioids, and the information gathered could help “develop and refine prescription opioid misuse screening tools for university health centers.”
“It also identifies a number of concurring behaviors that can simultaneously be addressed when prescription opioid misusers are identified,” the authors wrote in the study.
The detailed findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Addictions.
Link to Abstract: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ajad.12807