It’s a shocking number. In the United States, non-medically related prescription drug use is at an all-time high, pushing 3 percent of the entire population of the country. Approximately 7 million people in the US in 2010 were abusing prescription drugs for recreational use and this number continues to grow exponentially.
One of the key factors in the growth of prescription drug abuse has been availability. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 1991, the increase in the use of opioid analgesics (painkillers primarily) has climbed from 75 million to just about 210 million. This is only in this single family of prescription drug medications.
Deaths occurring from the opiate-based medications are pushing new highs as well – reaching nearly 12000 in 2010 – and firmly taking over the number one spot in the cause of death from the drug-related incident.
Even more shocking – prescription drug abuse now accounts for more deaths in the United States than traffic accidents – and by a wide margin. In 2009 alone the CDC estimates that around 37500 people died as a result of prescription drug overdose. In comparison traffic deaths accounted for just over 35,000.
What Can Account for Such a Rapid Increase?
There are several factors at play in the rapid increase in prescription drug abuse in the United States. Perhaps the most prevalent among them is the misconception about the legality of medically prescribed drugs. Culturally speaking it has become more socially acceptable to abuse prescription drugs since they can be obtained by legal ways.
This leads to the belief that they do not carry with them the danger of abuse, overdose and potential death such as illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. In reality, the side effects of many prescription drugs can be much more severe than these other drugs and should only be taken under the guidance of medical professionals.
Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Painkillers, Opioids, and Morphine Derivatives: This family of prescription drugs contains such drugs as morphine, codeine and oxycontin and is among the most addictive, dangerous and abused prescription drug type. Many of these drugs are classified as Type II by the federal government – a designation that indicates a high potential for abuse as well as strict production limits and medical regulation standards.
This group of prescription drugs is related to the highest occurrence of death among users, particularly when combined with alcohol for social use. These drugs are medically used as painkillers and relaxing agents for patients.
Stimulants: Included among prescription stimulants are amphetamines and methylphenidate (such as Ritalin). This type of drug is usually medically prescribed for mental health-related treatment. Abuse of the drug focuses on feelings of increased energy and alertness for the user similar to illicit drugs like cocaine. Prescription drugs serve a definitive medical purpose in today’s society.
It is important with any prescription drug plan to always consult your doctor or medical professional and be very aware of potential side effects of the drug. Prescription abuse is a rapidly growing problem in the United States and new information and support come out all of the time. If you feel like your teenager or loved one is in danger of prescription drug abuse be certain to reach out and help. Contact professional assistance to learn how to take steps to help your teen or child deal with this dangerous addiction.