Binge Alcohol Use and Prescription Opioid Misuse in the U.S., 2012–2014
Prescription opioids were responsible for approximately 17,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016. One in five prescription opioid deaths also involve alcohol. Alcohol users who misuse prescription opioids (i.e., use without a prescription or use only for the experience or feeling it causes) are at a heightened risk of overdose. However, little is known about the relationship between alcohol consumption patterns and prescription opioid misuse.
Data were analyzed from 160,812 individuals (aged ≥12 years) who responded to questions about prescription opioid misuse and alcohol consumption in the 2012, 2013, or 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (analyzed in 2017–2018). The prevalence of self-reported past-30-days prescription opioid misuse was assessed by sociodemographic characteristics, other substance use (i.e., cigarettes, marijuana), and alcohol consumption patterns. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to calculate AORs.
From 2012 to 2014, 1.6% of all individuals aged ≥12 years (estimated 4.2 million) and 3.5% of binge alcohol users (estimated 2.2 million) reported prescription opioid misuse. Prescription opioid misuse was more common among binge alcohol users than among abstainers. Overall, the prevalence of prescription opioid misuse increased significantly with binge alcohol use frequency.
More than half of the 4.2 million people who misused prescription opioids during 2012–2014 were binge alcohol users, and binge alcohol users had nearly twice the odds of misusing prescription opioids, compared with alcohol abstainers. Widespread use of evidence-based strategies for preventing binge alcohol use might reduce opioid misuse and overdoses involving alcohol.