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Study, Jun/20: Motivations for nonmedical prescription drug use among people...


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The full title of this Welsh study is "Not what the doctor ordered: Motivations for nonmedical prescription drug use among people who use illegal drugs".






Background: Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use (NMPDU) is common among people who use illegal drugs. NMPDU is particularly problematic among this population however, as medications such as benzodiazepines and gabapentinoids can potentiate the harmful effects of opioids. Despite these harms, there is some evidence that NMPDU can have harm reducing and therapeutic potential for some people who use illegal drugs. This study provides further evidence of the harm reducing motives for NMPDU among people who use illegal drugs in community and prison settings in Wales, UK.


Methods: In depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 60 interviewees recruited from statutory and third sector drug treatment providers operating in five towns and cities in Wales, and from two Welsh prisons. Eligibility was based primarily on whether the person was currently (or previously) a user of illegal drugs and had recent experience of NMPDU.


Results: NMPDU was found to be largely driven by insufficient access to certain prescription medications and treatment. In this context, NMPDU played an important role in alleviating legitimate medical concerns and overcoming logistical and regulatory barriers associated with Opioid Substitution Therapy. NMPDU also had everyday practicality and mitigated many of the everyday harms experienced by people who use drugs, including opioid withdrawal and stimulant comedowns.


Conclusion: Results suggest that NMPDU has the potential to mitigate a number of legitimate medical concerns in the absence of treatment. Finding nuanced ways of responding to patient need whilst reducing the potential for NMPDU are therefore needed, and harm reduction strategies that harness the knowledge and expertise of people who use drugs should be encouraged. Additional policy measures that attend to the inequities and social-structural factors that produce and maintain the need to consume prescription medications in ways that are not intended are also required.

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