Perceptions

Perceived Risk

Prescription drugs are legally prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions and thus may be considered by some people as safe to use or to use more than the recommended dose, even if it is to get high.

Prescription Medication Safety

About 29.7% believed it is safer to use prescription medication to get high than illegal street drugs (Figure 1).  These perceptions were similar across demographic groups and between ever misusers and non-users.

Figure 1. Believe that it is safer to use prescription medication to get high than illegal street drugs, LAC, 2017
Source: CNA

In 2017, 16.8% of LAC residents agreed or strongly agreed that it is okay to take more than the recommended dosage if they were feeling more pain than usual. Individuals who had ever misused prescription medication were more likely than non-users to believe it is okay to take more than the recommended dosage (Figure 2).  

Demographics

Males were more likely than females to believe that it is OK to take more than the recommended dosage of prescription medication if they were feeling more pain than usual. (Figure 3). 

In general, younger individuals were increasingly more likely to believe that it is OK to take more than the recommended dosage of prescription medication than older individuals (Figure 4).

Multi-race/ethnic misusers were most likely to believe it is OK to take more than the recommended dosage of prescription medication, while white non-users were the least likely (Figure 5). 

Risk from Misuse

A large proportion of people do not perceive prescription misuse to be a great risk in LAC, though more people believe it is a great risk for youth than it is for adults. 

Only half (54.5%) of LAC residents believed youth  greatly risked harming themselves if they occasionally misuse prescription medications (occasional prescription misuse means misusing prescription medication about once a month). Fewer, less than half (45%) of LAC residents, believed adults greatly risked harming themselves if they occasionally misuse prescription medications (Figure 6). 

Those who have ever misused prescription medications (i.e. users) were less likely to perceive occasional prescription medication misuse as a great risk among both youth and adults compared to non-misusers (Figures 7-8). 

Figure 6. Perceptions about misuse of prescription medications for adults and youth, LAC, 2017

Source: CNA

Great risk to adults for misusing Rx meds

Great risk to youth for misusing Rx meds

Demographics

Females were more likely than males to perceive a great risk of harm from misusing prescription medication (Figures 9-10). 

Perception of great risk of harm from misusing prescription medication increased with age (Figures 11-12).

Black non-users were the most likely to perceive great risk of harm from misusing prescription medication, while Asian users were the least likely to perceive great risk from misusing prescription medication (Figures 13-14).

Perceived Access

Prescription drugs are commonly perceived to be widely available and easily accessible. Nearly half (47.1%) of individuals in LAC believed it is easy or very easy for someone to get prescription medication on the street around their neighborhood (Figure 15).

Those who have ever misused prescription medications were more likely to perceive easy access to prescription medications (Figure 15).

Demographics

Males and females had similar perceptions of easy access to prescription medications (Figure 16).

Youth and older adults aged 55+ were less likely to perceive easy access to prescription medications compared to adults aged 18-54 (Figure 17).

Black users were most likely to perceive easy access to prescription medications, while Asian non-users were the least likely (Figure 18).

References

Figures 1-18. Prescription Medication Misuse and Public Perceptions in Los Angeles County: Findings from the 2017 Community Needs Assessment. Health Outcomes and Data Analytics, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, March 2019.