Whether you believe you have an addiction to alcohol, or know someone who does, it may not surprise you to hear that individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are 18 more times likely to abuse prescription drugs than people who don’t drink, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Sean Esteban McCabe and his colleagues documented the link in two studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The research revealed that young adults were at the highest risk of concurrent or simultaneous abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs.
These studies determined that physicians should conduct thorough drug use histories of their patients, especially when they’re working with people in their 20s.
Dr. McCabe said that doctors should ask patients with alcohol disorders about their nonmedical use of prescription medications (NMUPD), and in turn, ask nonmedical users of prescription drugs about their drinking habits.
Results of the Two Studies
Dr. McCabe’s first study looked at the prevalence of alcohol disorders and NMUD in 43,093 individuals age 18 and older. The study participants lived all over the United States, and represented White, Asian, African-American, Hispanic, and Native American backgrounds.
The study known as the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, found that the largest group of alcohol and prescription drug abusers were between the ages of 18 and 24.
Since most of the abusers were young adults, the second study focused strictly on this population, which found that 12 percent used alcohol and prescription drugs nonmedically in the last year at different times (concurrent use), and 7 percent took them at the same time (simultaneous use).
When people consume alcohol and prescriptions simultaneously, it can lead to serious adverse side effects, including:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Respiratory depression
- In some cases death
College students who drank alcohol and took prescriptions together had a higher risk of blacking out, vomiting, or engaging in risky behaviors, such as drunk driving.
The research also found that the more that a person drank, the more likely they were to take prescription drugs for recreational purposes. Lastly, binge drinkers not dependent on alcohol were nearly seven times more likely to take prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes, while people with alcohol dependency were 18 times more likely to do so.