What are sources of opioid abuse?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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The great majority of illicitly used prescription opioids are obtained from 1 physician, not from drug dealers.

In 2015, among persons aged 12 and older who had misused prescription pain relievers in the past 12 months, the following sources were reported for the most recent misuse:

  • 40.5% reported they obtained drugs free of charge from a relative or friend.

  • 36.4% reported they obtained drugs through a healthcare provider via prescription or by stealing.

  • 34% reported they obtained drugs from one doctor.

  • 9.4% reported they bought or stole drugs from a relative or friend.

  • Only 1.7% reported getting drugs from more than 1 doctor.

  • Only 4.9% reported buying drugs from a dealer or stranger.

Strikingly, these data suggest that drug dealers are a relatively small source of illicitly used prescription opioids. Diversion through family and friends is now the greatest source of illicit opioids. The majority of opioids are obtained by prescription from 1 physician, not from "doctor shopping." [17]

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