Prescription Tranquilizer/Sedative Misuse Prevalence and Correlates Across Age Cohorts in the US
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Background: Prescription tranquilizer/sedative (e.g., alprazolam, zolpidem) misuse (i.e., use in ways not intended by the prescriber or without a prescription) is understudied, with little research identifying misuse correlates. Identification of key correlates could identify subgroups more likely to engage in misuse, allowing for targeted treatment. This work examines tranquilizer/sedative use and misuse prevalence rates and misuse correlates across U.S. age cohorts, using nationally representative data.
Methods: Data were from the 2015-16 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (n = 114,043). Analyses used design-based logistic regression for past-year tranquilizer/sedative misuse correlates across participants or those engaged in past-year use; past-month misuse correlates were also examined in those with past-year misuse.
Results: Young adults (18-25 years) had the highest prevalence of past-year and past-month tranquilizer/sedative misuse, with 42.8% of those with past-year use also engaged in misuse. Mental health correlates were associated with past-year misuse, while substance use, particularly opioid misuse, was associated with both past-year and past-month misuse. Substance use correlate strength was most likely to vary by age group, with older adults (65 years and older) having fewer significant correlates overall.
Conclusions: This work highlighted young adults and those with other substance use as most likely to engage in tranquilizer/sedative misuse. In particular, those endorsing suicidality and reporting opioid misuse are a subgroup of concern, given their especially elevated rates of misuse and the increased risk for overdose imparted by tranquilizer/sedative medication. Workplace-based interventions for young adults and school-based universal prevention may be warranted to limit tranquilizer/sedative misuse in these groups.