Antiretroviral medication: An emerging category of prescription drug misuse

Glen P. Davis, Hilary L. Surratt, Frances R. Levin, Carlos Blanco

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives Prescription drug abuse has been a focus of public health concern over the past two decades with many studies addressing patterns of narcotic analgesic abuse and diversion. Most research in this domain has centered on controlled substances with known abuse liability. However, the scientific literature has been virtually silent regarding other prescribed medications with previously undocumented addictive potential, such as antiretroviral (ARV) medications for treatment of human immunodeficiency virus. Methods This article reviews the available evidence that suggests a growing problem of ARV diversion and abuse and explores the reasons for the misuse of these medications based on the theoretical neuropsychiatric effects of ARVs and the drug-drug interactions between ARVs and other drugs of abuse. Results Review of media reports and qualitative studies suggest that ARV medications are emerging drugs of abuse. Claims about the psychoactive effects of ARV medications are supported by scientific case reports. Conclusions and Scientific Significance This article reviews the evidence to date of an emerging problem of diversion and misuse of ARV medications for recreational purposes. Implications of ARV misuse and diversion are discussed with suggestions for future research and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-525
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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