31 Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics & Facts
Prescription drug abuse statistics show that it has become a major public health concern in recent years. Prescription drugs are medications that are prescribed by doctors to treat a variety of medical conditions.
31 Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics & Facts
These prescription drug abuse statistics will shock you!
Prescription drug abuse has become a major public health concern in recent years. Prescription drugs are medications that are prescribed by doctors to treat a variety of medical conditions.
However, when these drugs are taken without a prescription or in a way that is not intended by the prescribing doctor, they can be dangerous and even deadly. In this article, we will explore some of the most important prescription drug abuse statistics and facts.
Top 10 Key Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics
- In the US, prescription drug abuse is responsible for more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
- Prescription opioid abuse costs the US economy $78.5 billion per year in terms of healthcare, addiction treatment, and lost productivity.
- Approximately 18 million people in the US have misused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.
- The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids (such as oxycodone and hydrocodone), benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium), and stimulants (such as Adderall and Ritalin).
- In 2018, over 10 million Americans misused opioids.
- Overdose deaths involving opioids have increased by more than five times since 1999.
- More than half of all prescription drug overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
- Nearly one-third of people who misuse prescription drugs get them from a friend or family member for free.
- Prescription drug abuse is not limited to adults; approximately 2% of high school seniors report non-medical use of OxyContin or Vicodin.
- Only about one-third of people who need addiction treatment for prescription drug abuse actually receive it.
How Common Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. This can include taking medication that was prescribed for someone else, taking medication in a way that is not prescribed (such as crushing or snorting pills), or taking medication for non-medical reasons (such as to get high).
The NIDA reports that in 2019, approximately 9.7 million people in the United States misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives. These numbers represent a significant increase from previous years.
The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs and Their Effects
There are several types of prescription drugs that are frequently abused. Among them, opioids, stimulants, and sedatives are the most commonly misused drugs.
Opioids are a type of painkiller medication that is often prescribed to treat severe pain. They work by blocking pain signals in the brain. However, when taken in high doses or for non-medical reasons, opioids can cause a euphoric high and lead to addiction. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 21-29% of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them, and between 8-12% develop an opioid use disorder. Commonly abused opioids include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and fentanyl.
Stimulants are medications that increase alertness and energy levels. They are often prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. When taken in high doses or for non-medical reasons, stimulants can cause feelings of euphoria, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 5-9% of people aged 12 and older have used prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons in their lifetime. Commonly abused stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta.
Sedatives are medications that slow down brain activity and induce sleepiness. They are often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders or insomnia. When taken in high doses or for non-medical reasons, sedatives can cause drowsiness, confusion, slowed breathing, and even coma or death. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2019, approximately 4.9 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription sedatives at least once in the past year. Commonly abused sedatives include Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
It's important to note that the effects of prescription drug abuse vary depending on the type of drug being used as well as individual factors such as age, weight, and overall health. If you suspect someone you know may be misusing prescription drugs, it's important to seek professional help immediately before it's too late.
How Are Prescription Drugs Abused?
Prescription drug abuse can take many forms, including:
- Taking medication that was prescribed for someone else
- Taking medication in a way that is not prescribed (such as crushing or snorting pills)
- Taking medication for non-medical reasons (such as to get high)
Emergency department visits related to the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs increased by 114% between 2004 and 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
In addition, prescription drug overdose deaths have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- There were over 17,000 prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 alone.
These statistics highlight the urgent need for increased awareness and prevention efforts surrounding prescription drug abuse. It's important for individuals to understand the risks associated with misusing prescription drugs and to seek help if they or someone they know is struggling with addiction.
How Many People Misuse Prescription Drugs?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2019:
- Approximately 16.1 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription drugs at least once in the past year.
- This represents about 5.9% of the U.S population aged 12 or older.
- Among them, about 10 million people misused prescription pain relievers, while around 5 million used tranquilizers or sedatives for non-medical reasons.
- Additionally, nearly 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.
The NSDUH also reports that:
- Young adults aged between 18 to 25 years were more likely to misuse prescription drugs than adults aged 26 or older.
- In this age group, about one in four individuals had misused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.
These numbers indicate that prescription drug abuse is a significant problem affecting millions of Americans across all age groups and demographics. It's crucial to raise awareness about the risks associated with prescription drug misuse and encourage people to seek help if they suspect someone they know may be struggling with addiction.
Prescription Abuse Demographics
Prescription drug abuse affects people of all ages and backgrounds, but certain demographics are more at risk than others. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following groups have higher rates of prescription drug misuse:
Individuals aged 18 to 25 are more likely to misuse prescription drugs than any other age group. In 2019, about 13.6% of young adults reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year.
While young adults have the highest rates of prescription drug misuse, older adults are also at risk. In fact, in 2019, nearly 5% of adults aged 50 or older reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year.
Women are more likely than men to misuse prescription drugs. In 2019, about 6% of women reported misusing prescription drugs compared to about 5% of men.
Rates of prescription drug misuse are higher among white Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups. In 2019, about 6.2% of white Americans reported misusing prescription drugs compared to about 4.3% of Black Americans and 3.7% of Hispanic Americans.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone can become addicted to prescription drugs, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include:
- People who have a personal or family history of addiction (40-60% of people with addiction have a family history).
- People who have a history of mental illness (50% of people with mental health disorders also have substance abuse disorders).
- People who have experienced trauma or stress (up to 75% of people who experience trauma develop substance abuse disorders).
- People who have a history of substance abuse (40-60% of people who complete addiction treatment will relapse within one year).
- People who are taking prescription medication for a long period of time (25% of people who take prescription opioids for chronic pain will develop an addiction).
The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse can lead to a variety of negative consequences, including:
Prescription Drug Addiction Statistics
Prescription drugs can be highly addictive, and continued use can lead to physical dependence and addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 9% of people who misuse prescription drugs will develop a substance use disorder.
Prescription Drug Overdose Statistics
Taking too much of a prescription medication can be deadly. In 2019, there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States, with more than half involving prescription or illicit opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 38% from 2019 to 2020.
Prescription Drug Abuse Health Problems
Prescription drug abuse can lead to a range of health problems, including liver damage, kidney damage, heart problems, and respiratory problems. For example, the American Liver Foundation reports that acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
Using prescription drugs in a way that is not intended by the prescribing doctor is illegal and can lead to legal problems. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2019, about 1.7 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year.
Is Abusing Prescription Drugs Illegal?
Abusing prescription drugs is illegal and can lead to a range of legal problems, including fines and imprisonment. It's important to understand that even sharing prescription medication with someone else is considered illegal and can have serious consequences.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2019:
- About 1.7 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year.
- This highlights the growing issue of prescription drug misuse in the United States.
Additionally, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2019:
- Approximately 57% of people who misused prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives for free.
- Only 17% obtained them through a legitimate prescription from their own doctor.
- This underscores the importance of properly disposing unused medications and not sharing them with others.
In many cases, individuals who are caught misusing or distributing prescription drugs may face criminal charges, such as:
- Possession of controlled substances without a valid prescription
- Distribution or sale of controlled substances
- Forgery or fraudulently obtaining prescriptions
- These charges may result in fines or imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
Prevention and Treatment
Prevention is key when it comes to prescription drug abuse. Some tips for preventing prescription drug abuse include:
- Only taking prescription medications as prescribed by a doctor
- Properly storing prescription medications in a secure location
- Not sharing prescription medications with others
- Properly disposing of unused prescription medications
If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug abuse, there are treatment options available. These may include counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and support groups.
Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem affecting millions of people in the United States. It can lead to addiction, overdose, health problems, and legal issues. While prescription drugs can be effective in treating medical conditions when used as prescribed, their misuse can have devastating consequences.
It's important for individuals to understand the risks associated with prescription drug abuse and take steps to prevent it from happening. If someone is struggling with prescription drug addiction, seeking help from professionals is crucial for recovery. By raising awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and promoting prevention efforts, we can work towards a healthier and safer society.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Prescription Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-drug-abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Overdose Death Rates. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates