Determining the Prevalence of Prescription Opioid Use among Admissions to Opioid Treatment Programs


AATOD has been increasingly concerned about the impact of prescription opioid use has had upon admissions to Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs). Over the course of the past several years, we have received anecdotal reports from State Opioid Treatment Authorities, county governments and OTPs with regard to the admission of patients, suffering from long-term prescription opioid addiction.

AATOD has developed a research project to determine the prevalence of prescription opioid use among admissions to OTPs. This research study is funded through a grant from Denver Health and Hospital Authority – Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and is under the umbrella of the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System.

This research project involves 75 OTPs, representing all of the regions in the United States. Each participating OTP provides an anonymous survey instrument to every patient being admitted into the program. The anonymous survey is voluntarily completed by patients from the participating OTPs and is independently analyzed by National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI) a leading and a nationally recognized research based organization. All of the survey data is submitted directly to NDRI to ensure complete independence of survey data collection and analysis. NDRI will track these data on a quarterly basis and will be responsible for publishing all such information in making presentations at national and international conferences.

Project Overview & Update

Research Title: Prevalence of Prescription Opioid Abuse among New Admissions to OTPs (AATOD – Opioid Use Study)

Research Aims:

• Determine lifetime and current prescription opioid prevalences among OTP enrollees
• Identify factors associated with primary prescription opioid abuse
• Determine source for prescription opioids


Since December 2004, 113 OTPs in 37 states have administered the survey questionnaire to patients enrolling in an OTP. As of January 4, 2015, we have received and processed survey data representing 80,759 OTP enrollees. In addition to collecting detailed information on prescription opioid use, the survey also collects information on other drug use, demographic, treatment history, drug craving and pain.

We have already learned a tremendous amount of information from this study. Some of the critical findings have been that 79% of the reporting patients are Caucasian and percentage of females ranging from 43 to 48%. In addition, 40% of the patients indicated employment as their primary source of income.

Among the 80,759 respondents, the average age is 34 and ranges from 16 to 91 years old. During the past three years, average mean age has shown a modest increase. However, we have seen the percentage of medium aged patients (30 to 42 years old) increase while the percentage of younger patients (18 to 29 years old) had a gradual decline.

Respondents identified the sources for their primary prescription opioid with dealer being the most frequent source (75%), friend or relative (42%), a doctor’s prescription (27%) and Emergency Department (10%). A relatively small percentage of respondents reported that a source for their primary opioid drug was through a forged prescription (1.6%) or from the internet (1.5%).

Although a substantial proportion of the OTP enrollees continue to report abusing prescription opioids; prescription opioid rates are declining and heroin rates are increasing; with heroin now endorsed more frequently than prescription opioid abuse. These trends are even more strongly apparent with primary drug, with heroin increasing from 48% to 69% and prescription opioids decreasing from 59% to 41% since 2011. Although heroin is more likely to have been injected than prescription opioids, a sizable percentage of prescription opioid abusers (30%) report that they injected one or more prescription opioids in the past month. A sizable proportion of OTP enrollees report currently using non-opioid drugs.

The information above should not be used and or referenced without the written consent of AATOD.

If you are interested in participating in this research project and/or would like more information, please feel free to contact Mark W. Parrino, MPA at 212-566-5555 or via email

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