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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Taiwan: Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use Associated with Greater Depression Level and Other Substance Use

Nonmedical prescription drug use (NMPDU) has become a major public health issue worldwide but little is known in Asian populations. In the 2014 national survey in Taiwan, led by Dr. Wei J. Chen of National Taiwan University (NTU) with collaborators from other universities, 3.02 percent reported nonmedical use (NMU) of prescription analgesics and 0.71 percent for sedatives/hypnotics. The results have been published online by Preventive Medicine Reports.

“One of the major striking findings,” said Dr. Lian-Yu Chen, first author of the article and an adjunct at NTU, “was that NMU was associated with greater depression level for both analgesics and sedatives/hypnotics compared to those who did not take these medications at all.” However, NMU showed similar depression level as medical users of prescription drugs. When compared to both non-users and medical users, people with NMU were younger, more likely to use other substances, including tobacco, alcohol, and ever illicit drugs. “When we get to know their profiles and comorbidities, it is easier to develop a more tailored prevention strategy,” continued Dr. Lian-Yu Chen.

It turned out that the NMU of different types of prescription drugs showed different risk profiles. “While NMU of analgesics was robustly associated with alcohol use and greater AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test) scores, NMU of sedatives/hypnotics was robustly associated with illicit drug use and greater DAST (Drug Abuse Screening Test) scores,” said Dr. Yi-Lung Chen, the co-first author of the article. “Our findings imply that screening for different substance use in individuals with different NMPDU should be considered, and continuous monitoring of this public health issue is also necessary,” concluded Dr. Wei J. Chen, corresponding author of the article.

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