Trends in Prescription Drug Abuse

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in the United States [1]. Each year, the number of individuals who lose their lives as a result of an overdose involving prescription drugs are steadily increasing.

There is a common misconception that prescription medications are safe to use because they given via the recommendation of a physician and formulated under federal regulations and guidelines. However, this does not make a medication safe nor does it prevent it from reaching the hands of a person who can potentially abuse the drug, using it for purposes outside recommendations.

An Overview of Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

Also according to the CDC, the number of women who lost their lives due to overdosing on an opioid pain reliever rose 415 percent between 1999 and 2010, compared to 250 percent for men. Opioid painkillers, such as Oxycontin, Lortab, and Percocet are among the most commonly abused prescription medications across the United States.

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Other commonly abused prescription medications include stimulants, which are often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and central nervous system depressants, which are typically used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

While many Americans rely on a prescription medication to improve quality of life, help manage a chronic condition, or improve functionality, the problem with prescription drug abuse cannot be ignored.

Pharmaceutical drug overdoses have been established as one of the leading causes of death in the United States, surpassing deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents and firearms.

Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

While prescription medications should be obtained through the recommendation of a qualified physician, many individuals acquire these drugs without a doctor and for nonmedical reasons. For example, high school and/or college students may acquire a stimulant drug from a roommate or classmate who has a legitimate prescription from a doctor.

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Others may attempt to obtain prescription drugs off a black market or buy stealing a medication that is legally prescribed to someone else. Statistics have also shown that among individuals who are abusing drugs, 25 percent began doing so by abusing a prescription medication [2].

While nonmedical use of a prescription drug may seem harmless, even if done on occasion, it can lead to a much more problematic and dangerous situation.



[1]: Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women Karin A. Mack, PhD, Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2013;62(26):537-542.

[2]: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.

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About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 23, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.