Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from 2008 through 2011 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health involving those who use prescription painkillers non-medically -- those who use the medications without a prescription, or use the drugs for their "high."
The research letter, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, found 27 percent of the time, those at highest risk of overdose -- people who use prescription opioids non-medically 200 or more days a year -- got the prescription from a doctor.
The study also found 26 percent obtained drugs such as oxycodone or Vicodin from friends or relatives for free for non-medical uses, 23 percent bought the prescription painkillers from friends or relatives and 15 percent bought opioids the from a drug dealer.
"Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.
"Healthcare providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription drug monitoring programs. It's time we stop the source and treat the troubled."