Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States

United States consume approximately 80% of the world’s entire supply of prescription pain relief pills, a total of over 110 tons of opiates (Daily Mail 2012). Despite the dangers of illegal drugs, prescription drugs cause 14,800 US deaths every year which is higher than cocaine and heroin caused deaths combined.
“This is one of the greatest drug threats we have ever faced,” Michele Leonhart, who heads the US Drug Enforcement Administration (Reuters 2012).

An estimated 7 million Americans abuse pharmaceutical drugs, leading to pharmaceutical drugs accounting for approximately 75% of all drug related US overdose deaths according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Reuters 2012). More than 70% of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or relative. This isn’t too surprising considering how readily accessible prescription drugs are.

Photo Illustration/Newscom

Many doctors are too willing to distribute pain killers, which can be a gateway to addiction for many Americans. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 55% of pain killer abusers get pills from family or friends for free, 11% are bought from these same sources, and 5% are stolen (Reuters 2012). Addiction to prescription drugs is extremely strong and pills can be sold for as much as $80 a piece, leading addicts to resort to violence by robbing doctors’ offices and pharmacies for drugs.

Though the prescription drug abuse in the United States in a huge issue, it tends to be overshadowed by the glamour and excitement of the United States’ war on drugs. This is unbelievably unfortunate, particularly because more deaths are coming from legal prescription drugs than from illegal drugs that are fought so voraciously by law enforcement. Facts such as these only confirm that our approach to drug control and safety is still significantly lacking.




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