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. Over the course of the past several years, we have received anecdotal reports from State Opioid Treatment Authorities, county governments and Opioid Treatment Programs (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, 93 OTPs in 36 states have administered the survey questionnaire to patients enrolling in an OTP.  As of March 4, 2012, we have received and processed survey data representing 55,442 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 78% of the reporting patients are Caucasian and 42% female, which is a modest upward trend in the past three years.  In addition, 42% of the patients indicated employment as their primary source of income.

Among the 55,442 respondents, the average age is 34 and ranges from 16 to 89 years old.  During the past three years, average mean age has showed little change.  However, we have seen the percentage of medium aged patients (30 to 42 years old) increase while the percentage of older patients (43 or older) is decreasing.

Respondents identified the sources for their primary prescription opioid with dealer being the most frequent source (75%), friend or relative (41%), a doctor’s prescription (26%) and Emergency Department (10%).  A relatively small percentage of respondents reported that a source for their primary opioid drug was through a forged prescription (1.7%) or from the internet (1.9%).

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 extension 200 or via email

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