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Prescription Drug Statistics

  • The 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment states that controlled prescription drug abuse here in the United States is exceeded only by marijuana abuse. Prescription drug statistics show that abuse of these substances is most severe among teenagers. They estimate in 2009 that nearly 7 million people (2.8% of the population questioned in the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey) over the age of 12 had previously abused or were currently abusing prescription drugs. This is a 12% increase from the previous year (2008) when 6.2 million, 2.5% of those 12 and older had abused or were currently abusing prescription drugs. This 12% increase is distributed between an increase from 2008 to 2009 in prescription stimulant abuse (.4% in 2008 to .5% in 2009), prescription sedative abuse (.09% in 2008 to .15% in 2009) and prescription pain reliever abuse (1.9% in 2008 to 2.1% in 2009).
  • Information on prescription drug abuse from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that adolescents have an increased rate of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers when compared to the general population. Between 2008 and 2009 the percentage of teenagers (12-17 years old) abusing pain relievers increased from 2.3% to 2.7%. The abuse of Vicodin is a contradiction to the increased trend in adolescent prescription drug abuse. Vicodin abuse among 12th graders decreased in 2010 from 9.7% in 2009 to 8% in 2010 (Monitoring the Future). This same survey found that abuse of Vicodin also decreased among 10th graders between 2009 and 2010 from 8.1% down to 7.7%.
  • Current information from the National Drug Threat Assessment on drug overdose deaths show that the number of prescription drug overdose deaths is now greater than the number of meth, cocaine and heroin overdose deaths combined. Professionals in the field of addiction research speculate that the increase in prescription drug overdose deaths is due to users taking more than one substance at a time; whether it is controlled or non-controlled prescription drugs, illicit drugs or alcohol.
  • Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2009 reveals 2.2 million people abused prescription pain relievers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that opioid pain relievers are the number one type of controlled prescription drug that when abused leads to unintentional poisoning deaths. Prescription drug statistics during 2006 and 2007 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show an increase in the number of unintentional opioid analgesic overdose deaths in the United States. The data reveals that in 2006, 11,001 people died from an unintentional opioid analgesic overdose. In 2007, 11,528 people died from an unintentional opioid analgesic overdose. An additional review of prescription drug overdose statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the number of opioid-related deaths have been steadily increasing over the last ten years.
  • The most current information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Drug Abuse Warning Network on then number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers shows an estimated increase close to 30% (305,885 to 397,160) between 2008 and 2009.
  • Statistics on prescription drug addiction treatment admissions from the Treatment Episode Data Set finds that admissions for other opiates/syntheticsshowed an increase of 16% (119,529 to 138,639) from 2008 to 2009. Because prescription opioids are extremely addictive and very expensive, addicts often need to enter treatment programs to end their destructive habits. For those who are not ready to enroll in treatment, drug addiction researchers have found that many prescription drug addicts are switching to heroin because it is less expensive than their current prescription drug of choice.
  • The National Drug Threat Survey reports that 13.9% of state and local law enforcement agencies surveyed felt that controlled prescription drugs were the greatest drug threat during 2010. This is a 9.8% increase from the results of the same survey the previous year (2009). The distribution of controlled prescription drugs is now being tied to street gangs who had previously focused on the distribution of illicit drugs. Data from the 2010 National Drug Threat Survey shows that 51.2% of state and local law enforcement agencies noted street gang involvement in pharmaceutical distribution. This is a 48% increase from their 2009 statistics on street gang involvement in pharmaceutical distribution.
  • On September 25, 2010 the first nationwide prescription drug "Take-Back" day was held by the DEA, Office of Diversion Control "National Take-Back Initiative." This program was created so that people could bring their unwanted or unused prescription drugs to any of the over 4,094 collection locations. This was done across the country so that anyone who wanted to anonymously give their prescription drugs to law enforcement officers for destruction free of charge had the opportunity. For this event, the DEA worked alongside 2,992 state and local law enforcement agencies and collected 245,443 pounds of prescription drugs. The same event was held a year later and collected 188 tons of prescription drugs, a 53% increase from the previous collection.
  • According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 50% of those questioned who abused psychotherapeutic drugs (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives) obtained the drugs "from a friend or relative for free." This same survey revealed that another 11.4% bought the prescription drugs they abused non-medically from a friend or relative. This is a steep increase from 2007-2008 survey results where only 8.9% of those surveyed stated that they had bought the prescription drugs they abused from a friend or relative. 4.8% of those surveyed stated that they had taken the prescription drugs from a friend or relative without asking. 17.3% stated that the prescription drugs they abused most recently had come from a doctor's prescription. 4.4% shared that they had obtained the prescription drugs they abused from a drug dealer or stranger. 0.4% bought the prescription drug they abused from the internet.
  • Additional information from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that among those 12 and older who abused prescription drugs non-medically between 2009-2010 and had obtained the drugs for free from a friend or relative for free, 79.4% shared that their friend or relative had gotten the drugs from just one doctor. The survey revealed that only 2.3% stated that their friend or relative who gave them the prescription drugs for free had originally bought the drugs from a drug dealer or other stranger.

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