Prescription Drug Abuse Facts and Statistics
While illegal drug abuse has decreased, the abuse of prescription drugs has reached epidemic status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Narcotic pain relievers are at the top of the list of abused prescriptions, with overdoses and deaths rising significantly in recent years. One of the many dangers of prescription drug abuse involves erroneous beliefs about the safety of this type of drug use. Many people mistakenly believe that misusing prescription drugs is not dangerous, which can lead to increased use and abuse.
Negligent physicians and illegal online pharmacies are two ways in which people can obtain prescription drugs, states the attorney general of Georgia. Sometimes, a physician will even intentionally over-prescribe a prescription drug to a patient, which can lead to addiction and overdose. Prescription drug monitoring programs exist in 49 states, according to the Trust for America’s Health. PDMP programs vary in funding and scope, which can impact their effectiveness for identifying physicians who prescribe prescription drugs unethically.
The CDC warns that hepatitis and HIV are two risks connected with prescription drug abuse, due to a common trend that involves transitioning from prescription drugs to illicit drugs. Falls and fractures are another risk associated with prescription drug abuse. Health consequences vary depending on other factors, such as geographic location, age, gender, and diagnosed medical conditions.
Campaigns to educate people about the risks of prescription drug abuse may help reduce its prevalence. Educating parents, young people, and patients about prescription drug dangers is one strategy for reducing prescription drug abuse. For example, any patient prescribed a prescription pain reliever should receive clear instructions from the prescribing physician about how to use the drug safely, how to store it, and how to dispose of the drug, if applicable. Organized “medicine drop” events may also help to avoid prescription drugs falling into the wrong hands, states the North Carolina Department of Justice. These scheduled events enable law enforcement agencies to collect old medications from citizens instead of people throwing them away or leaving them in medicine cabinets where others could take them. Law enforcement agencies then dispose of the prescription drugs safely.
Specific Problems with Prescription Drug Abuse
- The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reports that nearly 50 percent of teenagers in the U.S. consider prescription drugs to be safer than illegal drugs.
- Prescription drugs can be highly addictive, which may lead to unintentional drug overdose, warns the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Heroin can be cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioid pain relievers, so people may choose heroin over prescription drugs, warns the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
- Reasons for prescription drug abuse include self-medication, escaping boredom, coping with stress, and entertainment, states a report published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Increased availability and a rise in doctors prescribing prescription pain relievers has contributed to increased prescription drug abuse, according to the PDMP Center of Excellence at Brandeis University.
Details About Prescription Drug Abuse
- Using prescription drugs may involve taking someone else’s prescribed medication, or it could involve crushing pills and snorting or injecting them, states the Mayo Clinic.
- A “pain mill” is a clinic designed to see patients with chronic pain. Some legitimate pain clinics exist; however, a growing number of illegitimate clinics exist offering cursory exams with ill-trained physicians, warns the attorney general of Georgia.
- Diverted pharmaceuticals, sometimes with street-gang involvement, are a significant factor in prescription drug abuse, according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.
- Initial use of opioids in people between ages 16 and 25 generally involves a personal prescription or prescribed drugs belonging to a friend or family member, according to a report published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
Statistics About Prescription Drug Abuse
- Deaths involving opioid analgesics totaled almost 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2010, according to the CDC.
- Approximately 15.3 million people misused prescription drugs in the past 12 months, which breaks down to 6.5 million users in the past month, states the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Misuse of prescription drugs among military personnel increased from 5 percent to 12 percent between 2005 and 2008, according to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.
- Someone dies from a prescription painkiller overdose every 19 minutes in the United States, states First Databank in a published issue brief.
- Opioid use among college students increased 343 percent between 1993 and 2005, according to the Clinton Foundation.
- Teen use of Vicodin and Oxycontin increased until 2009 and has leveled off since this time, according to a report published by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.