Abuse of Medications That Theoretically Are Without Abuse Potential

Roy R. Reeves, DO, PhD; Mark E. Ladner, MD; Candace L. Perry, MD; Randy S. Burke, PhD; Janet T. Laizer, MD


South Med J. 2015;108(3):151-157. 

In This Article

Is Noncontrolled Medication Abuse a Significant Problem?

The exact incidence of abuse of noncontrolled medications is unknown because of the lack of formal reporting mechanisms, but there is significant evidence that abuse is occurring. DAWN data citing ED visits related to prescription drugs demonstrate nonmedical use of many medications; more than 1.2 million ED visits involved nonmedical use of prescription and OTC drugs in 2011. From 2004 to 2011, many noncontrolled medications showed significant increases in such ED visits; for example, visits caused by diphenhydramine use increased from 10,457 to 19,012 (82%); muscle relaxants from 25,934 to 46,269 (78%); and psychotherapeutic agents from 91,268 to 135,455 (48%).[7] High incidences and increasing frequency of nonmedical use are evident. Abuse of noncontrolled medications in correctional facilities appears to be common, including significant abuse of quetiapine, gabapentin, bupropion, trihexyphenidyl, and tricyclics.[8] Medication abuse constitutes a growing problem among older adults;[9] therefore, abuse of certain medications theoretically without abuse potential may indeed be a significant problem.