Prescription drugs are now second among the most commonly abused drugs in the nation, according to a recent statement by the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Called the country’s “fastest growing drug problem” by the White House, prescription drug abuse is now the #1 cause of overdose deaths in the U.S. – more than cocaine and heroin combined.
Between 2004 and 2008 the number of individuals in treatment for legal opiate addiction rose by 400 percent, according to a statement by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In addition a 2009 government survey on drug use found 70 percent of prescription drug abusers in the US were not prescribed their drug of choice – they acquired the drug from a friend or relative. For more on the dangers of sharing prescription drugs and its prevalence among students, see the Clarity Way blog article, “Talk to Your Kids about Correctly Using their Prescriptions”.
In addition to endangering our health, prescription drug abuse poses public safety risks. Across the country, local police departments are reporting an increase in violent crimes and theft related to prescription drugs. Between 2006-2011 there was an 82% increase in violent robberies of pharmacies.
In contrast to illicit drugs often supplied by international cartels, prescription drugs are sourced from doctors and pharmacies within the US. This raises a policy issue of how much money should continue flowing into drug enforcement abroad when the fastest-growing drug abuse epidemic is, in fact, domestic.
If you suspect a friend or family member is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, approach him or her gently but firmly. Explain your concerns, encourage them to acknowledge the problem, and make it clear you want to be a source of love and support in their recovery.
What do you think about the rise of prescription drug abuse? How should the government handle this issue of public health and safety?