Prescription tranquilizer and sedative misuse motives vary widely amongst United States of America population

1. This quantitative study found that motives for prescription tranquilizer/sedative misuse differ widely by age group in the United States of America.

2. Recreational use of tranquilizers/sedatives is most strongly associated with other substance use, physical health, and mental health problems.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Misuse of prescription tranquilizers and/or sedatives is common in the United States of America (US), especially among adults aged 18-25. Prior research shows that such misuse can lead to overdoses and is correlated with other substance use disorders and psychiatric comorbidities. However, motives for tranquilizer/sedative misuse are not well understood. Other researchers have postulated potential motives including desire for better sleep, reduction of anxiety, or recreational motives.

This retrospective quantitative study collected data on substance use behaviour via the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2015-2018. Participants were included if they answered yes to any prescription tranquilizer/sedative misuse in the past year (N=6892). Participants were excluded if they did not respond to the motive question. Measured outcomes included other substance use behaviors (ex. binge alcohol use, marijuana use, and various others), mental health correlates (ex. depression, suicidal ideation), and physical health correlates (ex. emergency department use, inpatient hospitalization).

Prescription tranquilizer/sedative motives differed widely by age based on data from 223,520 respondents. For adolescents, desire to experiment or recreational motives were notable motives (26.9% and 39.2%, respectively). Recreational motives decreased almost linearly as age increased. In contrast, for adults aged 65 and older, desire to sleep better was a major motive (63.9%). Across all age groups, any tranquilizer/sedative misuse was associated with worse mental health, including rates of depression and suicidality. Misuse was associated with worse physical health correlates across all age groups. However, this study had several limitations including its reliance on self-reported data. The dataset also did not include homeless or incarcerated individuals and under-sampled older adults. Nonetheless, this study expands our understanding of tranquilizer/sedative misuse amongst different age groups, which may allow for targeted interventions.

Click to read the study in Journal of Addiction Medicine

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