Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

Experiencing prescription drug abuse effects? Check these prescription drug abuse statistics and find out how detox and rehab can help.

In the U.S. and abroad, prescription drug abuse statistics are shocking. Young and old, millions of people are abusing prescription drugs every day. Overdose deaths are higher for prescription drugs abuse than for medications used for normal medical use. Each day about 2,500 adolescents are abusing opioid prescription painkillers in the U.S. and about 22,400 opioid painkiller overdose deaths occurred in 2005. This is just a small glimpse at prescription drug abuse statistics but it highlights the growing need for detox and rehabilitation for addicts.

The figures are staggering and reveal a massive drug abuse and addiction problem in the U.S. Studies show that opioids, depressants and stimulant prescription medications account for 45% of overdose deaths. Most overdose deaths were prevalent in the inner cities but have now spread out to suburban and rural areas of the country. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommends that individuals learn about different drugs before taking them, because each person has a different body chemistry that will react differently to the same drugs. Even drug information given by the media may sometimes be incorrect, so people should begin to research the facts on their own. Taking a drug for the first time, even a small amount of the drug, can result in serious health complications, overdose and death.

Prescription drugs are the third choice after alcohol and marijuana that adolescents are abusing. They often trade the drugs with their friends, and usually steal the drugs from the medicine cabinet at home, or abuse medication that was prescribed to them. Opioids are often taken to get high and stop physical pain. Stimulants are taken to improve studying and test taking, lose weight and enhance athletic performance. Depressants are used to get high and relieve anxiety. Many adolescents believe that prescription drugs are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor.

Below are some of the most common prescription drug abuse effects:


  • Euphoria
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bizarre or violent behavior
  • Psychosis, panic, hallucinations
  • Convulsions, seizures and overdose death
  • Heart attack, stroke


  • Euphoria
  • Respiratory depression
  • Lethargy, sedation
  • Paranoia
  • Brain and liver damage
  • Urticaria


  • Seizures, tremors
  • Death
  • Confusion, drowsiness, shallow breathing
  • Depression, anxiety, suicide
  • Drowsiness, blackouts
  • Slurred speech

It is estimated that 45 people each day are dying from an overdose of prescription drugs in America, and there is an estimated 4.3 million Americans who are abusing prescription drugs. Research has shown that 99% of doctors are prescribing opioid painkillers that exceed the federally recommended dosage of a three-day limit. And high school teens are shown to be abusing prescribed opioids, stimulants and tranquilizers. Some illicit drugs being purchased over the Internet reportedly contain Fentanyl, and China has moved to ban some Fentanyl production that is causing overdose deaths in the U.S. and elsewhere.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the U.S. are:

  • Painkillers – abused by 5.1 million Americans annually
  • Depressants – 2.2 million Americans
  • Stimulants – 1.1 million Americans

Women who overdosed on opioid painkiller medications rose 415% compared to overdose deaths for men, which rose 250%. Reported medical emergencies attributed to prescription drug abuse increased about 132% in the last seven years, with opioid medical emergencies rising 183%. Prescription drug abuse overall has increased in the U.S. and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared the problem an epidemic.

Research shows that the link between opioid pain medications and heroin has also increased. Once a patient becomes addicted to their opioid prescription pain medication and can no longer obtain a prescription for the drug, they will resort to illicit heroin. The use of heroin increased 75% from 2007 to 2011. Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old who used heroin for the first time has risen 80% since 2002.

Teenagers are reportedly using Ritalin and Adderall that was not prescribed to them to get high. About 1.9 million teens are abusing benzodiazepines annually, and stimulant use among high school and college students has risen 91.5%. There was more class absence among stimulant users than those who did not use the drug, and most students are obtaining the drug from other students who were prescribed the drug for medical reasons.

Treatment is available for anyone who has an abuse or addiction problem with prescription drugs. If you want to check prescription drug abuse statistics or need help getting off prescription drugs you should contact a drug treatment center and begin a safe drug recovery program.

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.