opioid epidemic

Quest Diagnostics Health Trends studies are published in peer-reviewed medical journals and by the company as a public service. The research features insights and analysis from a large database of laboratory data. Most recently, we released the Prescription Drug Misuse in America: Diagnostic Insights in the Growing Drug Epidemic report, which examined 3.4 million prescription medication monitoring lab tests. Analysis includes results from patients in all 50 states and the District of Columbia performed by Quest between 2011 and 2016.

The study found that, while evidence of misuse has declined in recent years, 52% of test results showed evidence of potential misuse in 2016, suggesting a majority of patients took their prescribed drugs in ways that were inconsistent with their physician’s instruction. By comparison, in 2011, 63% of test results were inconsistent with physician orders. Misuse is defined as a patient taking prescribed drugs in a way that is inconsistent with a physician’s instruction.

Some key findings from the study include:

  • More than half of patient specimens (52%) showed signs of prescription drug misuse.
  • 19% of specimens that tested positive for heroin were also positive for non-prescribed fentanyl. This combination of drugs heightens the risk of a drug overdose death.
  • Misuse rates were even higher for men and women of reproductive age (58%) than in the general study population (52%). Men were more likely to use marijuana and women were more likely to use non-prescribed benzodiazepines.
  • The most commonly detected drug used by young adults is marijuana, while older adults prefer to use benzodiazepines.
  • One in three adolescents (ages 10 – 17 years old) tested showed signs of drug misuse in 2016, a major improvement from 70% in 2011.

The study also found dangerous drug combinations are common. Among more than 33,000 specimens tested for opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol in 2016, more than 20% were positive for both opioids and benzodiazepines, more than 10% were positive for both opioids and alcohol, and 3% were positive for all three.

As our country faces an epidemic of prescription drug misuse, objective laboratory data can help to assist healthcare providers in assessing patients’ use of prescribed medications and other illicit drugs and educate the public about the associated health risks. We offer full line of lab-based drug testing services to help identify the appropriate and inappropriate use of prescription drugs.

See our interactive map showing drug misuse nationally and by state.

Download the complete report.

To learn more about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Cincinnati: A 7-Day Look into Heroin Addiction

by Pablo Bolanos on September 29, 2017

Advancements in technology allow us to experience more than just our own lives. Through the screens we hold, we passively watch, comment, and discuss as observers and bystanders. With the 24-hour news cycle and reality television, we can become desensitized and may even experience compassion fatigue, a side effect of vicariously experiencing trauma.

When it comes to headlines about drug abuse, specifically the growing opioid epidemic, we are familiar with the tragedies, but typically click away once we’ve consumed only a few sentences. It’s easier for us to detach from the loss of life on the news because we don’t see the off-camera reality.

One group of journalists sought to change that and recorded an up-close look into a week in the life of those affected by heroin and other opioids. The project—Seven Days of Heroin—sent out more than 60 reporters, photographers, and videographers from Cincinnati with a single goal: capture the lives of people affected by the crisis.

“We set out to do this project not to affirm or deny differing views on the cost of battling addiction and its impact. Rather, we set out to understand how it unfolds day in and day out. This project is as close as you can get to seeing how a neighbor, the guy at your local gas station, or even family member may be struggling with a substance use disorder,” said Peter Bhatia, Editor and Vice President, Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com.

This unique, comprehensive reporting consists of unedited moments in time, not just headlines. Read some raw excerpts examining a single week in our country’s epidemic in an area of our country hard hit by overdoses:

Monday, 9 a.m. The woman from St. Bernard looks confused, as if she’s unsure how she got here. She was on the floor of her friend’s house, barely breathing, less than 12 hours ago.

Tuesday 1:10 p.m. The [7-year old-girl] hasn’t been home since she found her mother slumped over the toilet last year, high on heroin and barely conscious. Her father died of an overdose earlier this year.

Wednesday, 1:42 p.m. She’s 25 and addicted to the synthetic opiate [fentanyl.] She used to take heroin, but now she prefers the more powerful and more dangerous synthetic. Tall and fine-boned, Ali could be a model.

Thursday, 11 a.m. After years of addiction, Gaffney’s goals are modest. She wants to raise her child in a normal home. She wants a normal life.

Friday, 8:50 p.m. She’s starting to experience withdrawal symptoms, which are dangerous to her baby, so corrections officers are going to send her to the hospital. “How often do you use heroin during the pregnancy?” the medic asks. “Every day,” she says.

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. About 80 people are here, preparing to hand out thousands of pamphlets and door hangers packed with information about addiction and treatment. Some wear T-shirts proclaiming “NKY Hates Heroin,” or “Hope over Heroin.”

Sunday, 3:30 p.m. “Gracie? Wake up, Gracie,” one of them says, kneeling next to her. They rub her chest and continue setting up the IV. They talk about the possibility she took something even worse than heroin, like carfentanil, a synthetic opiate that’s blamed for a growing number of overdoses.

Journalism like this helps to expose the truth in our communities and attach faces to stories of lives in danger. After all, addiction is not a choice. If it was, it is safe to say that the majority of people would never choose it. Our society must respond with compassion and understanding and focus our efforts on recovery and rehabilitation to battle drug addiction.

Read the full Seven Days of Heroin report and watch the videos.

If you or someone you know is unable to stop using drugs or alcohol, seek a referral from your primary care physician or locate an addiction specialist from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Addiction Recovery: A Celebration of Life

September 6, 2017Drugs & Alcohol

“Recovery makes me feel like that empty space in my heart is finally filled. I have the motivation and drive that I have never experienced before. For the first time in my life, I believe I have a purpose, and I am so much more than just a hopeless junkie sentenced to a life of […]

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Top 10 Drug Testing Tips for HR

June 16, 2017Drug Testing

Human Resources professionals serve as trusted advisors offering insights and guidance on a variety of topics such as staffing, benefits, compensation, and employee engagement. Ultimately, the role centers on making a positive impact for the workforce and retaining high-performing employees who drive results. As the labor market tightens, the importance of effective recruitment strategies has […]

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2017 National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 14, 2017News

An ambulance blazes by a sea of idling cars in the midst of evening rush-hour. Weaving through traffic, the EMT’s singular goal is to arrive at the emergency room as quickly as possible. The passenger is a victim of accidental prescription drug poisoning. This scenario plays out daily in cities across the country. In fact, […]

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National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 11, 2016News

Overdoses and deaths caused by prescription drug abuse have reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 52 million people have used prescription drugs for non medical reasons at least once in their lifetimes. Consequences associated with prescription drug misuse have been well-documented. Some specific facts include: Twelve percent […]

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