Disabled adults face higher risk of opioid misuse

Date: Nov 13 2018

CONTACT: Megan Lowry, 202-777-3913

San Diego, Nov. 13, 2018 – New research presented today at the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo revealed that adults with disabilities are at a relatively high risk of opioid misuse, due in part to chronic conditions such as a high prevalence of serious mental illness and persistent pain.

Study data showed that working-age adults with disabilities were significantly more likely to have misused prescription pain medication or heroin in their lifetime than those without disabilities. Seventeen percent of disabled adults surveyed misused prescription pain medications, compared with 11.3 percent of non-disabled adults. This disparity was also apparent in the use of illegal opioids, as 4.4 percent of disabled adults surveyed had used heroin, compared with 1.8 percent who were not disabled.

The study found that only 12.8 percent of adults with disabilities who had misused opioids in the past year received substance abuse treatment. This is a higher treatment rate than adults without disabilities who misuse opioids, of whom 8.8 percent received substance abuse treatment.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Information from over 14,000 adults was analyzed.

Jae Kennedy, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Washington State University and lead investigator for the study said, “Most working-age adults who report current or recent opioid misuse do not receive treatment, regardless of disability status. Additional research is needed to assess barriers to evidence-based treatment, particularly for adults with disabilities.”

This research will be presented during the APHA Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, during session 4150: Trending topics, health equity and disability.


About the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo:

APHA’s 146th Annual Meeting is themed “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now.” The Annual Meeting is the largest annual gathering of public health professionals and features over a thousand presentations on the latest research and newest thinking in the public health field.

About APHA:

APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at www.apha.org.