Probability and predictors of remission from life-time prescription drug use disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Jan;47(1):42-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.08.019. Epub 2012 Sep 15.


While prescription drug use disorders (PDUD) has become an important and growing public health problem, little is known about their course. This study aims to estimate cumulative probability of remission from sedatives, tranquilizers, opioids and stimulants, and to identify predictors of remission across substances. Analyses were done for the sub-sample of individuals with lifetime history of abuse or dependence on sedatives (n = 402), tranquilizers (n = 372), opioids (n = 521), and stimulants (n = 765) at Wave 1 of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Cumulative probability estimates and hazard ratios for remission from PDUD were obtained for the general population. Lifetime cumulative probability estimates of remission were above 96% for all substances assessed. Half of the cases of PDUD remitted between 4 and 5 years after onset. Remission from PDUD was greater for younger individuals. Males exhibited lower hazards of remission for stimulants use disorder. A diagnosis of personality disorders decreased probability of remission for sedatives and stimulants. Only abuse or dependence on some prescription drugs decreased the probability of remission from other PDUD, whereas other drug disorders did not predict remission. A significant proportion of individuals with PDUD achieve remission at some point in their life-time. Predictors of remission were found to be mostly substance-specific rather than common across substances. The lower rates of remission among some subgroups of the population highlight the need to strengthen preventive and intervention efforts among vulnerable population subgroups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prescription Drug Misuse*
  • Probability
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult