Prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem in America. According to data from the Foundation for a Drug Free World, in 2006, 2.6 million people in the United States abused prescription drugs for the first time. Every day in the U.S., 2,500 children between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. Oftentimes, this leads to many life problems associated with addiction and sometimes death.

What’s more shocking is that even though this problem exists, prescription drugs are being prescribed more than before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2007 to 2010, half of U.S. adults and 25 percent of children under age 18 used at least one prescription drug in the past month.

Approximately one-third of adults take a cholesterol lowering or blood pressure medication and 10 percent take some sort of prescription painkiller. These medications, while life-saving or helpful for the quality of life of those taking it, have caveats that have health officials worried. Many doctors are still prescribing antibiotics for uses not intended, such as common cold symptoms.

Take a look at the top five most prescribed drugs for adults from 2007-2010, by percentage of users:

Cardiovascular, 17.7%

Cholesterol-lowering, 10.7%

Antidepressants, 10.6%

Analgesics, 10.5%

Anti-acid reflux, 9%

Painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone have been widely abused and have caused the death toll to triple for the 21st century. According to the CDC, the rise in abuse has been unprecedented in overdose deaths in the US, which parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of strong painkillers. The drugs have killed more than cocaine and heroin combined, according to 2008 data.

Groups advocating to stop prescription drug abuse have vehemently tried to combat this epidemic. Programs such as Take-Back Day occur to help thousands of people safely get rid of their prescription pills. The program began in 2013, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and has made a lot of progress since. Local police stations all over the country have participated in the event and the DEA is hoping to have these initiatives twice a year in various locations.

Advocates also urge that people be aware of what medications their loved ones are taking. “Know what medications your loved ones are taking and watch for signs of changes in behavior,” according to Dr. Michael Klein, director of the Food and Drug Administration Controlled Substance Staff.

If you or someone you know has a prescription drug abuse problem, be sure to reach out to your physician or a professional for help.

Call 1-800-662-HELP in the U.S. to reach a free referral helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

 

Source: Health, United States, 2013: With Special Feature on Prescription Drugs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.