Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse In America

If you think heroin is the most dangerous drug, you’re not wrong, but if you think that prescription drugs are not as dangerous as heroin, you are far from right. In fact, prescription drug abuse is now the leading cause of death. For the first time, America is being faced with facts they can’t ignore such as the fact that prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths than drunk driving, alcoholic liver disease, homicide, suicide, and illicit drug overdose. Many of the killer prescription drugs are prescribed to us by doctors. There is no doubt that prescription drugs are also responsible for helping millions who suffer from pain, mental illness, and health conditions however, these survey results should be a call to action that the United States needs to adjust the way in which prescribing systems encourage misuse, overuse, and dependence.

In a federal survey published by Samhsa this month, we learned that 45 percent of America’s population age 12 and older were prescribed to some type of medication. 19 million individuals out of the 119 million prescribed, said that they didn’t follow the directions from the prescription. Only 5 percent of these people bought drugs from a drug dealer or stranger. For many individuals who now suffer from heroin addiction, their drug abuse began with a prescription for pain from an accident or surgery. Likewise, some of the most commonly prescribed drugs such as xanax, adderall, and ambien used for treating ADHD, anxiety, and sleep disorders, are high risks for dependence which explains the increase in dependence among Americans age 26 and older.

According the SAMHSA survey, “in 2015, 2.1 million people aged 12 or older were recent initiates for pain reliever misuse (i.e., misused for the first time in the past year), 1.4 million were recent initiates for tranquilizer misuse, 1.3 million were recent initiates for stimulant misuse, and 425,000 were recent initiates for sedative misuse. On average, recent initiates aged 12 to 49 initiated the misuse of prescription drugs in their early to late 20s.”

The greatest information gained from the SAMHSA Survey indicated an urgent need for more treatment options and for spreading awareness about the need for long-term care through rehab as well as addiction aftercare programs.

“We need to expand access to treatment and we need to do it now,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Because, like every other disease, people who want treatment should be able to get it. And it should not be dependent on where they live or how much money they have.”

Prescription drug abuse means taking a medication that is usually prescribed by a doctor in a way other than the recommended medical purposes.  If you’ve ever taken a family member’s pain medication to get rid of a backache, you’ve actually abused a prescription drug.

You’re not alone, though. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have engaged in prescription drug abuse at least once. While just taking one pain pill may not seem like much of an issue, prescription drug abuse can be deadly and when it becomes a habit, can have a devastating effect on a person’s life.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

While taking any type of drug that’s doctor prescribed in a non-medical way is prescription drug abuse, certain medications are more likely to be abused chronically than others. According to prescription drug statistics, the following medications are the most problematic:

  • Opiates:
    Drugs in this class include morphine, codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin and Fentanyl. They are prescribed for pain relief and work by activating receptors in the brain called opioid receptors. In addition to alleviating pain, this can cause feelings of euphoria. The NIDA estimated that 5.1 million Americans chronically abused opiate painkillers in 2010 alone.
  •  Sedatives:
    Sedative drugs suppress the nervous system, giving feelings of calm and relaxation. Pentobarbital sodium or Nembutal, diazepam or Valium and alprazolam or Xanax are three sedatives that are rampantly used by people who engage in prescription pill abuse. The NIDA found that 2.2 million people chronically abused sedatives in 2010.
  • Stimulants:
    Stimulants have the opposite effect of sedatives–they energize the body, making people feel more alert and awake. Methylphenidate or Ritalin and amphetamines like Adderrall are the most commonly abused stimulants. The NIDA reports that 1.1 million people chronically abused stimulants in 2010.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.