The abuse of prescribed medication is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Prescription drugs are a close second to marijuana on the list of drugs that are abused in the United States. This phenomenon has been classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A national survey showed that approximately 30 percent of people aged 12 and over who experimented with narcotics for the first time in 2009 did so by using a prescribed drug for non-medical purposes.
Some abusers of prescription medication, in particular teens, hold the belief that these substances carry less risk than illicit drugs because they have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained from a pharmacist.
When taken as prescribed for valid medical purposes, prescription drugs are effective and usually safe. However, they are just as dangerous and deadly as illegal drugs when used for non-medical reasons. In the past, opiate overdoses were almost always due to heroin abuse. There is a marked increase in overdoses due to the misuse of prescription painkillers.
Prescription drugs are legal, making them easily accessible, as they are often found at home medicine cabinet. Another recent national survey showed that more than 70 percent of the people who abused prescription pain medication acquired them from friends or relatives, while almost 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or via the Internet.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs can be divided into three classes:
- Stimulants, including amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin)
- Opioids such as methadone (Dolophine), and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants including diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax)
What You Can Do:
- Dispose of prescription drugs in a proper manner. Do not leave them where they can be easily abused.
- Educate your kids: It’s vital that children learn about the use and abuse of prescription medication.
- Seek addiction treatment and offer support to those in recovery: If you or someone you know requires help with substance abuse, find a nearby treatment center immediately.
Addressing this epidemic is a top priority for all. It will help build stronger, productive communities and help those with substance abuse problems lead healthier, more prosperous lives.