Understanding who is more likely to misuse prescription opioids can assist physicians with curbing abuse — even if the reason why these individuals have a higher likelihood of becoming addicted is undetermined. 

Published in Addictive Behaviors, a new report revealed that individuals who misuse prescription painkillers all have one thing in common: a history of recent illicit drug abuse.

University of Georgia researchers found that despite age, individuals who’ve used illegal drugs in the past year were more likely to misuse prescription opioids.

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The difference is where abusers acquire their prescription drugs. According to the study, participants aged 50 and older were more likely to get a clinician to prescribe them pain relievers. Younger addicts were more likely to obtain them from other sources: friends, relatives or drug dealers.

For this study, UGA reseachers reviewed more than 13,000 responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which collects data on a variety of subjects such tobacco, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and mental health. Survey respondents were aged 12 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier in the year reported that there were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012.