Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

The biggest and fastest-growing part of America's drug problem is prescription drug abuse," says Robert DuPont, a former White House drug czar and the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The statistics are unmistakable." Listed below are some of the most current statistics about prescription drug use that have been gathered by the U.S. Government:
About 6.2 million Americans - 2.9 % of the population - said they abused prescription drugs in the past month in 2010, an increase from 2.8% of the population in 2009, the survey found.

An estimated 5.7 million persons used pain relievers recreationally in the past month in 2009, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, 904,000 used stimulants, and 434,000 used sedatives. From 2002 to 2009, rates of current use among youths aged 12 to 17 have increased significantly for illicit drugs overall and for prescription-type drugs abused recreationally (from 4.0 to6.9 percent). In 2009, among the 4.0 million persons aged 12 or older who received treatment for alcohol or illicit drug abuse in the past year, over 3.2 million persons received treatment at a residential drug rehab center.

It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. When treating pain, healthcare providers have long wrestled with a dilemma: How to adequately relieve a patient's suffering, while avoiding the potential for that patient to become addicted to the pain medication. A study from the University of Michigan (2008) showed that by 12th grade, almost 10% of students had tried Vicodin and about 5% had used Oxycontin.In 2009, approximately 7.0 million persons reported past month non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs (2.9 percent of the U.S. population). This class of drugs is broadly described as those targeting the central nervous system. Among adolescents, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the frequently abused drugs, following marijuana (excluding tobacco and alcohol). Nearly 1 in 12 high school seniors reported nonmedical use of Vicodin; 2 in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin. When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for nonmedical use, 59% of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative. The number of individuals obtaining drugs via the internet is astounding. With one click, individuals at any age can obtain many prescription drugs that are classified as controlled substances, and can be extremely addictive and overdoses of these very powerful drugs can certainly be deadly. Among those who abuse prescription drugs, statistics show the highest rates of other risky behaviors, including abuse of other drugs and alcohol, have also been reported.

The increasing availability is no doubt, a major aspect that is driving the high prevalence of prescription drug abuse. Between 2004 and 2009, prescriptions for stimulants, has increased from 5 million to nearly 40 million, an 8-fold increase, and opioid analgesics increased from about 45 million to approximately 180 million, more than a 4-fold increase. Addiction to prescription painkillers, which kill thousands of Americans a year, has become a largely unrecognized epidemic, experts say. In fact, prescription drugs cause most of the more than 36,000 fatal overdoses each year, says Leonard Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of overdose deaths from opioid painkillers - opium-like drugs that include morphine and codeine - more than tripled from 2004 to 2009, to 19,800 deaths that year, according to CDC statistics. The rise in fatal overdoses almost exactly parallels a corresponding rise in prescription painkiller sales. In surveys, about 5% of Americans say they have used a prescription narcotic in the past month.

In the past, most overdoses were due to illegal narcotics, such as heroin, with most deaths in big cities. Prescription painkillers have now surpassed heroin and cocaine, however, as the leading cause of fatal overdoses, according to 2009 CDC statistics. The rate of fatal overdoses is now about as high in rural areas - 7.8 deaths per 100,000 people - as in cities, where the rate is 7.9 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a paper that was published last year in Pharmacology and Drug Safety. According to the latest statistics, 190,000 Americans a year go to the emergency room after overdosing on prescription opioid painkillers, says Laxmaiah Manchikanti, chief executive officer and board chairman for the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.

When an individual has developed dependence to prescription drugs it is very important to get that person into drug rehab as soon as possible. Drug rehab programs can help the individual defeat the psychological and physical nature of the condition. Supportive drug treatment provides real solutions for living a drug free life. Without drug rehab, a person who is addicted to prescription drugs remains at great risk of negative effects to their physical health or worse.