Prevalence

National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Key data: Past year misuse

Misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana as the nation's most prevalent drug problem in the United States (US). Among individuals who started using illicit drugs in the past year, 1 in 5 reported that their first drug was prescription opioids (NSDUH 2013).

In 2018, 82.4 million individuals aged 12 or older in the US  used prescription pain relievers, of which 9.3 million (3.6%) used prescription pain relievers non-medically or "misused" (use in any way not directed by a doctor, including use without a prescription of one's own; use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than told; or use in any other way not directed by a doctor) in the past year (NSDUH 2018).

Among American people aged 12 or older, misuse of prescription pain relievers were most common among individuals aged 18-25 (Figure 1).

Los Angeles County Health Survey

Key data: Past year misuse by demographics, geography


Overall in Los Angeles County (LAC), an estimated 422,000 adults 18 years or older, or about 5.5% of the adult population, reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year in 2015 (LACHS). The prevalence of misuse differed by demographic (Figures 2-4).

SPA 4 - Metro had the highest prevalence rate (7%) of Rx drug misuse among adults in LAC, while SPA 2 - San Fernando had the lowest prevalence rate (3.9%) of Rx drug misuse among adults in LAC (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Percent of adults (18+) who reported misusing any form of prescription drugs in the past year, LAC, 2015.
Source: LACHS

Community Needs Assessment (CNA)

Key data: Gone to work/school under the influence; Polydrug use

Gone to Work/School Under the Influence

Among those who have ever misused Rx medications in LAC in 2017, over one-third (36.1%) had misused Rx medications before or during work/school (Figure 6).

(Note: Adults were asked if they had gone to work, and youth were asked if they had gone to school under the influence of prescription medication)

Figure 6. Misuse of prescription medications  before or during work/school among ever misusers, LAC, 2017
Source: CNA

Among those who have ever misused Rx medications,  39.7% of males and 31.1% of females have misused Rx medications before or during work/school (Figure 7). 

The prevalence of ever going to work/school under the influence among ever Rx medication misusers was highest for youth aged 12-17 years compared to other age groups (Figure 8). 

Among ever Rx medication misusers, whites (42.4%) were most likely to have gone to work/school under the influence, followed by multi-race/ethnicity (39.2%), blacks (39.0%), and Latinx (36.5%) (Figure 9).

Polydrug Use

Figure 10. Ever misused Rx meds with alcohol or other drugs among ever misusers of Rx meds, LAC 2017

Source: CNA

Among those who ever misused Rx medications before or during work/school, over half (56.6%) used Rx medications together with alcohol or other drugs (Figure 10).

References

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health 2013. Results from the 2013 NSDUH: Summary of National Findings.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). 2018. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Tables 1.43A, 1.44A.

Figures 1-4. Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Los Angeles County Health Survey (LACHS). Prescription Drug Abuse/Misuse. http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ha/LACHSDataTopics2015.html

Figures 5-9. 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.