Health Trends™ Drug Misuse in America 2019: Physician Perspectives and Diagnostic Insights on the Evolving Drug Crisis

Drug Misuse in America 2019: Physician Perspectives and Diagnostic Insights on the Evolving Drug Crisis, a Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ report, presents findings from analysis of more than 4.4 million de-identified aggregated clinical drug monitoring tests performed by Quest Diagnostics for patients from all 50 states and District of Columbia from 2011 through 2018.

The report also incorporates findings from a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, commissioned by Quest Diagnostics and Center on Addiction, of 500 primary care physicians in the United States.

To our knowledge, this report is the first to juxtapose insights from nationally representative, objective de-identified laboratory data, and survey responses from primary care physicians about the use of controlled prescribed medications and illicit drugs in the United States. The intersection of these two data sets reveals insights into the complexity and tenacity of the drug misuse crisis

2018 marked the first year in more than a decade that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a decline in the number of drug overdoses, including prescription drug overdoses.1 This welcome news suggests that the nation’s prescription drug epidemic, fueled by the earlier surge in the prescription of opioids, has hit a plateau and may soon be on the wane.

However, at a granular view, continued and emerging trends suggest we have a long way to go. Evidence suggests rates of deaths from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, now outpace those from prescribed opioids. Drug combining—also known as drug mixing—of opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol is prevalent. Use of stimulants, such as cocaine, shows signs of a comeback. And gabapentin, a medication sometimes prescribed for neuropathic pain that can accentuate an opioid’s “high,” is now one of the most widely prescribed medications—and subject to increasing misuse.

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  1. NCHS, National Vital Statistics System. Estimates for 2018 and 2019 are based on provisional data. Estimates for 2015-2017 are based on final data. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality_public_use_data.htm. Accessed September 20, 2019.