Objectives: To determine the prevalence of medical and nonmedical use of 4 classes of prescription drugs (opioid, stimulant, sleeping, and sedative or anxiety) and to assess probable drug abuse among 4 mutually exclusive groups of medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs.
Design: In 2005, a Web survey was self-administered by a probability sample of 3639 college students (68% response rate).
Setting: A large, midwestern 4-year university.
Participants: The sample had a mean age of 19.9 years, and respondents were 53.6% female, 67.4% white, 12.1% Asian, 6.0% African American, 4.2% Hispanic, and 10.2% other racial categories.
Main outcome measures: Medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs was measured. Probable drug abuse was assessed using a modified version of the Drug Abuse Screening Test, Short Form.
Results: A total of 40.1% of respondents reported no lifetime use of at least 1 of 4 classes of prescription drugs, 39.7% reported medical use only, 15.8% reported both medical and nonmedical use, and 4.4% reported nonmedical use only. The odds of a positive screening result for drug abuse were greater among medical and nonmedical users (adjusted odds ratio, 5.5; 95% confidence interval, 3.4-7.3) and nonmedical users only (adjusted odds ratio, 6.5; 95% confidence interval, 4.0-10.6) compared with nonusers. The odds of a positive screening result for drug abuse did not differ between medical users only and nonusers.
Conclusions: Nonmedical users of prescription drugs are at heightened risk for drug abuse, whereas medical users without a history of nonmedical use are generally not at increased risk. Drug abuse screening should be routine for college students, especially among individuals with any history of nonmedical use of prescription drugs.