One in two U.S. adults misuse prescription meds, study finds

More than 50 percent of adults and 44 percent of children drug tested by Quest Diagnostics last year misused their prescription medications, according to a recent study issued by the national clinical laboratory company.

While young people aged 17 years and younger were more likely to misuse amphetamines, adults aged 25 and older were more likely to misuse benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety medications and opioid painkillers, according to the study. Still, individuals whose test results were included in the study were more likely than the general population to misuse medications, since their healthcare providers had suspected they were misusing the drugs and sent them for testing, says the company.

In its fifth year conducting this study, Quest Diagnostics incorporated more than 3 million test results, which monitored for 44 drugs in 2015, an increase on the 26 drugs monitored in 2010.

For the first time, the study included the results of patients who had heroin in their systems. Testing revealed that one-third of patients had benzodiazepines in their systems. When combined, these two drug types can cause patients to stop breathing, experience heart attacks and even die, Leland McClure, a director at Quest Diagnostics, told The Washington Post.

McClure said in a study announcement that he is deeply troubled that so many people combine drugs without their physician's knowledge. "Perhaps patients do not understand that mixing even small doses of certain drugs is hazardous, or they mistakenly believe prescription medications are somehow safe," he said. 

An additional finding from the study: Just shy of 66 percent of study participants in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming were found to misuse their prescriptions. At about 51 percent, the lowest rate of misuse was found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

- download the study
- check out the article
- here's the announcement