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Purdue Study Looks At Who Sells Prescription Drugs Illegally


As Indiana and other states look for ways to curb an epidemic of prescription medication abuse, new research from Purdue University provides insight into who is selling the drugs.

There's been a sharp rise in prescription medication abuse over the past two decades, says Mike Vuolo, an assistant professor of sociology at Purdue, with young adults ages 18 to 29 most likely to report abuse.

The research found regardless of their educational background, young adults who are part of the college bar scene are nearly three times more likely to sell prescription drugs.

"There's been sort of an over-focus on open-air drug markets in poor neighborhoods," Vuolo points out. "And here we're finding that, if you really want to exhibit some sort of social control over drug markets for prescription drugs, you really want to focus on a place like the college bar scene."

The researchers found the frequency with which a person abuses sedatives, painkillers and stimulants is associated with their odds of selling the drugs.

Researchers also found young adults from the wealthiest families who misuse prescription drugs are 23 percent more likely to sell them than their upper-middle-class peers.

Other studies estimate more than 5 percent of Indiana residents have abused prescription medication.

Brian Kelly, who directs Purdue's Center for Research on Young People's Health, says drug markets exist widely around the country and in all social classes.

And he says the findings are important because little is known about how prescription drugs are sold, or the young people who are selling them.

"There's been a wide range of research that's been done in terms of some of the harmful outcomes related to prescription drug misuse," Kelly says. "And so looking at some of the features of how they are getting this drugs is sort of a particularly important piece, in terms of how we might be able to intervene with young adults."

Almost twice as many Americans abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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