The widespread misuse of prescription painkillers has prompted the medical community to look for ways to better understand and regulate them. The doctors, pharmacists and policymakers involved in seeking to promote responsible use of prescription painkillers intend to provide solutions that prevent misuse of the drugs, but without threatening the relief that they offer to millions of people who suffer from diseases associated with significant pain, such as many types of cancer.
One way the regulations can be minimized in favor of prevention is through the use of screenings. For instance, an individual who has a history of illegal drug use may receive additional monitoring or be more limited in his or her access to prescription painkillers. This is due to research that has shown an increased level of abuse of prescription painkillers among those with a history of illegal drug use.
A recent study has shown that individuals who use marijuana may also represent a segment of the population that is more likely to misuse prescription pain medications.
The research, which was conducted by researchers at Ameritox, shows that individuals who test positive for marijuana are more likely to use prescription drugs, such as painkillers like Hydrocodone.
Chief Medical Officer for Ameritox, Harry Leider, MD, explained that clinicians should consider marijuana use a risk factor for potential misuse of prescription drugs.
The researchers at Ameritox examined over 100,000 test results, taken from urine samples of patients who had received a prescription to take Hydrocodone. The various market names for Hydrocodone include Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet, among others.
In patients whose lab results indicated that marijuana had been consumed, the misuse of Hydrocodone was 36.5 percent. Among those who had not used marijuana, the rate of non-adherence was 29.7 percent.
The researchers also discovered that 29.1 of the test results that indicated marijuana and 29.9 percent of those that showed cocaine in the urine also showed an additional non-prescribed drug. The most common non-prescribed medication in these instances was a tranquilizer. Among patients who did not have additional illegal drugs in their system, only 22 percent of the results showed a non-prescribed drug present.
The results prompted the researchers to note that the appearance of marijuana in a drug test sample should act as a red flag. Marijuana can be compared to cocaine in the strength of its presence as a predictor for prescription drug misuse.
The findings of the study were presented at a recent American Academy of Pain Medicine annual meeting.