Prescription Drug Abuse By The Numbers

Prescription drug abuse in the United States has become one of the biggest drug epidemics that the country has ever seen. When most people think about prescription drug abuse, they think of prescription opioids. These types of pain medications are the leading cause of overdose when it comes to prescription medications, and they’re often the gateway to heavier drugs such as heroin. Aside from prescription opiates, millions of people are also abusing medications like benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and other medications.

The abuse of prescription medications has been on the rise since the early 2000s. These medications are created to help people with easing pain, reducing anxiety, or assisting to control attention deficit disorders. The problem is that they can become quite addictive. Doctors, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies do their best to help curb the prescription drug abuse problem but there’s only so much they can do. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), roughly 20 percent of prescription drug abusers received medications from doctors, but 54.2 percent obtained the medications for free from a friend or family member.

Prescription Opioid Abuse
Those who abuse prescription opioids either started using the medication when they were injured or were suffering from chronic pain. The medication not only blocks pain receptors in the brain, but it also triggers the pleasure system in the brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 18,000 people died from fatal prescription opioid overdoses in 2014 alone. The CDCs statistics also show that roughly 2 million people in the United States abuse the medications or are dependent to them.

Abuse of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines include medications like Xanax and Valium, which are also known as tranquilizers. Those who suffer from different types of anxiety disorders take these medications to calm their nerves, but some become highly addicted. In 2011, benzodiazepine overdose deaths were at a 10-year high. By 2014, the number of overdose deaths reached a new high with roughly 8,000 people passing away from overdose deaths. Amongst those overdose deaths, approximately 3,000 were women.

The Abuse of Amphetamines Amongst Youth
Medications like Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed to people who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). The medication is designed to help people focus on specific tasks, which is why so many young people are prescribed the medications. Typically, if a student is having problems studying or sitting still and paying attention in the classroom, they may be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

The reasons amphetamines are commonly abused by young people is because the medications help them study as well as drink alcohol. Some students feel the pressure of getting good grades and find that the medications give them the ability to stay up all night cramming for a big project or exam. Others find that this medication helps them when they’re out drinking. Amphetamines can minimize the effects of alcohol, so college students often take the medication before a night of drinking, which can be dangerous because they’re unaware of how much they’ve consumed. Approximately 89.5 percent of college students who used Adderall for nonmedical reasons also reported binge drinking.

Prescription drug abuse numbers are growing every year. It’s important to recognize that it is a serious issue among people of all ages that needs to be addressed.