Prescription opioid misuse among middle-aged and older adults in the United States, 2015–2016

Benjamin H. Han, Scott E. Sherman, Joseph J. Palamar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults ≥50 years of age have high rates of prescription opioid use. The purpose of this study is to estimate the prevalence and correlates of prescription opioid misuse among middle-aged and older adults in the United States who use prescription opioids. Data from adults age ≥ 50 from the two most recent cohorts (2015 and 2016) of the National Survey of Drug Use and Health were examined (N = 17,608). Characteristics of past-year prescription opioid misusers, including demographics, substance use, depression, chronic disease, and emergency department (ED) use, were compared to adults who used prescription opioids as prescribed in the past year and non-users. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine correlates of prescription opioid misuse among adults who used prescription opioids. Among the entire sample, 61.4% reported no past-year prescription opioid use, 36.0% reported past-year prescription opioid use without misuse, and 2.5% reported past-year prescription opioid misuse. Among past-year prescription opioid users, 6.6% reported misuse. Past-year misuse was higher among males, adults age 50–64, misusers of prescription sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers, users of other substances (i.e., tobacco, marijuana, cocaine), and those with alcohol use disorder. Past-year misuse was lower among adults with 2 or more chronic diseases. Past-year prescription misuse of sedatives (AOR 4.08 [95% CI 2.05–8.12]), stimulants (AOR 3.88 [95% CI 2.00–7.53]), and tranquilizers (AOR 10.02 [95% CI 6.48–15.50]) were all associated with past-year opioid misuse. Characteristics of opioid misusers determined in this study—particularly misuse of other substances—may help determine middle-aged and older adults at risk for prescription opioid misuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Geriatrics
  • Prescription opioid misuse
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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