Join Together, November 13, 2006
Few studies have examined the relationship between alcohol
consumption and nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD).
To characterize this relationship, researchers analyzed data
from 43,093 adults who had participated in a national survey
on alcohol and related conditions.
- Of the overall sample, 65% drank and 3% took a
prescription drug (opioid, sedative, tranquilizer, or
stimulant) for a nonmedical reason in the past year.
Approximately 8% had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
- NMUPD was most common in subjects with past-year
alcohol dependence (22%), followed by subjects with
alcohol abuse only (8%), a heavy drinking episode* but no
AUD (4%), neither a heavy drinking episode nor an AUD
(2%), and abstinence (1%).
- In adjusted analyses, the odds of NMUPD were
significantly greater among drinkers than abstainers
(e.g., odds ratios 1.7 for subjects with neither a heavy
drinking episode nor an AUD and 18.2 for subjects with
- The co-occurrence of AUDs and NMUPD was more prevalent
among adults aged 18–24 years (42%) than among older
Comments by R. Curtis Ellison, MD:
This study showed that drinkers, particularly those
with an AUD, were more likely than abstainers to use a
prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose. As stated by
the authors, these findings underscore the importance of
thoroughly assessing prescription drug misuse while treating
AUDs, especially among young adults.
*>=5 drinks in a single day for men, >=4 drinks for women
Reprinted with permission from
Alcohol and Health: Current Evidence.
McCabe SE, Cranford JA, Boyd CJ. (2006) The relationship
between past-year drinking behaviors and nonmedical use of
prescription drugs: prevalence of co-occurrence in a
national sample. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 84(3):