PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADDICTION
An Ongoing Addiction Crisis
Prescription drug addiction is one of the most pervasive and deadly addiction threats in the United States. Although federal crackdowns and community efforts have diminished their overall impact, prescription drugs like opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines are still responsible for thousands of death each year. Even in the wake of national reform, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 52 million Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime. Approximately 16 million have reported improper use of prescriptions in the past year and nearly seven million report improper use in the past month. Many heroin addicts start off abusing prescription opioids.
A Multi-Generational Epidemic
Addiction to prescription drugs is a problem affecting all age groups, from curious teenagers to legitimately ill senior citizens. In 2013, generic hydrocodone was the most prescribed drug under Medicare. That same year, 7.1 percent of high school seniors admitted to past-month use of opioid painkillers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that prescription addiction is most prevalent among young adults ages 18 to 25, affecting approximately 13 percent of Americans in that age group. These pills are valuable clinical tools in treating serious conditions like anxiety disorder and chronic cancer-related pain; however, they are also incredibly addictive. Until very recently, prescription drugs led to more overdoses than cocaine and heroin combined.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
The most commonly abused prescriptions include prescription opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines and stimulants. Users may start off taking these drugs for “innocent” reasons, including pain and anxiety relief and as study-aids. Unfortunately, even users who take these drugs as prescribed can wind up dependent on them. Some of the more commonly abuse brand-name prescriptions include:
Opioid painkillers continue to be the most commonly abused class of prescription drugs.