A government study has found that most people who abuse addictive prescription painkillers get them from friends or relatives, while drug dealers are a relatively infrequent source for those at highest risk for overdoses.

Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues analyzed 4 years of nationwide health surveys on nonmedical use of pain relievers including oxycodone and hydrocodone. These include the brand-name pills Oxycontin and Vicodin, in a family of drugs called opiods.

According to the study, people who abuse the most frequently often “doctor-shop” – more than 1 in 4 who used these drugs almost daily said they had been prescribed by one or more doctors. Almost as many said they got them free from friends or relatives. Only 15% of the most frequent abusers said they bought them from dealers or strangers.

“Nonmedical use was defined as use without a prescription or use with a prescription for the feeling or experience caused by the drug,” said the researchers.

Public health messages have urged patients with legitimate prescriptions for addictive painkillers not to share drugs, and to turn in leftovers to designated drop-off sites.

Paulozzi said the data from this study indicates a need to strengthen messages to doctors to be on the watch for signs of prescription misuse. The study was recently published online in JAMA Internal Medicine…… AP News     3/3/14

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