Who is most likely to abuse prescription painkillers?

Understanding the groups at highest risk for overdose can help target interventions. Research shows that some groups are particularly vulnerable to prescription drug overdose:

  • Many more men than women die of overdoses from prescription painkillers.
  • Middle-aged adults (45-54 years old) have the highest prescription painkiller overdose rates.
  • People in rural counties are nearly twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers as people in big cities.
  • Whites and American Indian or Alaska Natives are more likely to overdose on prescription painkillers.
  • About 1 in 10 American Indian or Alaska Natives aged 12 or older used prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the past year, compared to 1 in 20 whites and 1 in 30 blacks.
  • People who obtain multiple controlled substance prescriptions from multiple providers -- a practice known as doctor shopping.
  • People who take high daily dosages of prescription painkillers and those who misuse multiple abuse-prone prescription drugs.
  • People on Medicaid are prescribed painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid patients and are at six times the risk of prescription painkillers overdose.
  • People with mental illness and those with a history of substance abuse.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.