Objective: To examine changes in the prevalence of non-medical prescription drug use and DSM-IV non-medical prescription abuse and dependence in the United States between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002.
Method: Comparison of the prevalence of past-year non-medical prescription drug use and drug use disorders in the total sample and among lifetime non-medical users in two large national surveys conducted 10 years apart.
Results: From 1991-1992 to 2001-2002, the prevalence of DSM-IV non-medical prescription drug use increased by 53%, from 1.5% to 2.3% (p<0.001), and the prevalence of drug use disorders increased by 67% from 0.3% to 0.5% (p<0.001). The conditional prevalence of a disorder among users increased numerically from 19.9% to 23.6%, but this increase was not statistically significant (p=0.15).
Conclusions: There have been substantial increases in the prevalence of prescription drug non-medical use and prescription drug use disorders in the United States. Given the clinical utility of prescription drugs, urgent action is needed to find approaches that balance the need for access to these medications among those who need them, against their potential for abuse and dependence in subgroups of vulnerable individuals.