Prescription drug use and the resulting overdoses are on the rise nationwide. With billions of dollars spent on marketing, media is reluctant to report the true toll that prescription medications have taken on society. The first step in addressing any problem is getting informed. Here we bring 10 facts to light about prescription drug abuse, a problem that could be happening from within your very own home.
1. Prescription Drug Abuse Is Deadlier Than Auto Accidents
Automobile safety has significantly increased over the years, but so has the number of vehicles on our roads. This adds to the likelihood of collisions and accidents. Surprisingly enough, there were 1,200 more prescription drug overdoses than there were vehicular deaths in 2009. By 2015, the total number of prescription drug-related deaths was nearly 30,000.
According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control, the number of deaths from prescription drugs is only going to increase. Unlike the visibility of automobile accidents and the more obvious dangers in operating them, prescription drug abuse is often silent and hidden.
2. Prescription Drugs Are Easy to Obtain
Surveys among high school seniors have shown more that more than one-third of students believe opioid drugs are fairly or very easy to obtain. The types of drugs high school students generally obtain include Vicodin and OxyContin. The ease at which teenagers are able to access such powerful drugs is one of the main reasons prescription drug abuse continues to rise.
3. College Campuses See Rampant Use
High schoolers who make it through graduation without succumbing to the peer pressure of using prescription drugs have an even more difficult battle in college. It is estimated two out of every three college students are offered prescription drugs while attending. What’s even more shocking is one out those three students will abuse prescription drugs at some point during their college career.
4. Usage Starts Young
Every year, millions of teenagers admit to taking prescription drugs. The last major study stated that over 6 million teenagers (ages 12-17) had taken either prescription painkillers or prescription stimulants in their life. The average age of first-time users is only 13 years old, with 1 in 5 teens admitting to using before turning 14.
5. Prescription Drugs Deadlier Than Street Drugs
When people think about drug abuse, they generally think of typical substances that are available on the streets. Over the years, prescription drugs have become more popular and its use has become just as common as other drugs. Deaths from prescription drugs such as depressants, anti-depressants, and opioids now surpass deaths from street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and amphetamines.
6. One in Twenty Use Prescriptions for Non-Medical Reasons
Five percent of the U.S. population has used prescription medications for non-medical reasons. Simply put, one out of every twenty citizens has taken a prescription drug just for the high. The drugs are often obtained from friends or family who were prescribed the medication for their own ailments. When the need for the prescription medication wanes, instead of returning the unused pills to the pharmacy, patients might give the extras away to a close friend who knows about the prescription and asks for them.
7. The Cost of Prescription Drug Abuse is High
Billions of dollars annually are used every year to combat prescription drug abuse and overdose. Conservative estimates put the price tag at $55 billion about ten years ago, and that number has only risen since. Making up the bulk of these billions spent are the healthcare and criminal justice costs. Drug abusers use medical services at a higher rate than non-users, often at the expense of taxpayers.
8. Prescription Drug Abuse is a Gateway to Other Substances
The Center on Addiction, previously known as the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), studied the use of other substances by teenagers already using prescription drugs. Their findings were alarming as teenagers already abusing prescriptions are:
- Twice as likely to use alcohol
- Five times more likely to use marijuana
- Up to twenty times more likely to use heroin or cocaine
The turn to other substances often stems from the end of steady prescription drug use. Unlike street drugs, teenagers get prescriptions from the medicine cabinets of friends or family members. When the prescriptions run out, so does the supply, leaving teenagers searching for their next fix.
9. Men and Women Use for Different Reasons
Many teenage prescription drug abusers don’t know why they use. Adult abusers, on the other hand, will seek out prescription drugs for different reasons. Men generally abuse for recreational purposes as well as the general high. Women often state they use prescription medications for alertness or weight loss.
10. Prescription Drugs Are Everywhere
Efforts are just now ramping up to help curb the prescription drug crisis in the United States, but it will be a steep hill to climb. Half of all Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, and one in six are taking at least three prescribed medications.
Although we know pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research, the battle to reduce prescription drug abuse starts at home by taking careful measures to keep pills away from our youth and already abusing adults.
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