The nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) may be more consistently associated with discrete, potentially traumatic events and social-environmental stressors compared with long-lasting stressors related to family functioning during childhood and youth, according to a study published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.

Additionally, the results indicated that physical and sexual assaults were more likely to be associated with NMUPD when the assaults were perpetrated by strangers compared with those perpetrated by family members.

The study included 5308 young adult men from the Swiss cohort study on substance use risk factors. The researchers analyzed NMUPD of sleeping pills, tranquilizers, opioid analgesics, psychostimulants, and antidepressants, and several forms of stress preceding the NMUPD for each participant.

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The results showed that NMUPD was significantly associated with the cumulative number of potentially traumatic events (eg, for opioid analgesics, risk ratio [RR], 1.92; P <.001), with problems within the family (eg, for sleeping pills, RR, 2.45; P <.001), and with the peer group (eg, for tranquilizer use, RR, 2.34; P <.01). Potentially traumatic events included incidents such as traffic accidents, earthquakes, severe illness, or injury. Factors surrounding family functioning in childhood showed very few significant associations with NMUPD.

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Sexual assault by acquaintances was associated with the use of sleeping pills (RR, 2.91; P <.01). Physical assault by acquaintances was not associated with NMUPD. Physical or sexual assaults that were perpetrated by people outside the family were found to be associated with several drug categories (psychostimulants: RR, 2.01; P <.001 and antidepressants: RR, 4.64, P <.001, respectively).

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Rougemont-Bücking A, Grazioli VS, Marmet S, et al. Non-medical use of prescription drugs by young men: impact of potentially traumatic events and of social-environmental stressors. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2018;9(1):1468706