The Problem of Prescription Painkiller Abuse in the United States

In the year 2012, there were 4.8 million reported people that had used prescription pain relievers for reasons other than indicated in the reported past month and 1.9 million people began abusing these medications (Kirschner, N., & Tape, T. G. 2014). The use of pharmaceutical pain relief drugs for purposes other than indicated has been an ongoing problem for years throughout the U.S. The issue is not going away any time soon, and many legislative bills have been enacted to specifically address this issue.

According to Carolyn Baird, the second biggest drug abuse problem is the abuse of prescription medication as of 2011. The number one drug is marijuana (2011). She goes on to state that the problem affects individuals age 12 and up, of various backgrounds and demographics. This problem is affecting all groups at this point in time. Policies are continually being presented to not only reduce the amount of unnecessary Government spending on prescription drugs, but to also deter the abuse of these medications.

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With the increase of prescription drug policies, people have more difficulty in accessing them, whether they are seeking them for legitimate issues or not. According to a study completed by Joyce West, Joshua Wilk, Donald Rae, Irvin Muszynski, and Rubio Maitza, “The states with the lowest rates of reported medication access problems were New York (27.1%), Texas (31.0%), and California (32.4%), whereas Tennessee (63.3%), Georgia (64.2%), and Michigan (64.7%) had the highest rates” (2009).

The Center for Disease Control states that around 15,000 people die of overdoses involving prescription painkillers according to data collected for 2008 (CDC). The costs directly related to society as associated with prescription drug abuse are extravagant.

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Not only does this disrupt the health of individuals, families, and communities as well as their wellbeing, the estimated societal monetary cost of prescription drug abuse was around $55.7 billion in 2007 (Phillips, 2012). The problem of abusing prescription pain killers has been around for many years, but it seems each year, it gets worse. As indicated in a journal article, a national study found that today’s teens are more prone to have misused a prescription painkiller to get high than they are to have tried any other variety of illegal drugs (Quintero, Peterson, Young, 2006). The growing trend of drug use had been in the direction of abusing prescription pain medication. Communication between medical personnel, clinicians, medical researchers, and government policymakers, as well as anyone else affected will require working together to understand this issue and find solutions for treatment and prevention (McHugh, Kathryn, Nielson, Suzanne, Pharm, B., Weiss, Roger. 2014). The communication is ongoing among clinicians and policy makers alike.

Some policies that have been introduced and passed to combat this issue have been the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act, The Prescription Drug Abuse and Treatment Act, (Phillips, 2009) among many others. Policy makers are working to prevent and diminish the act of abusing prescription drugs. In a recent report released by the US Government, the ONDCP will create a Federal Council on Prescription Drug Abuse, made up of Federal agencies, to address this prescription drug abuse prevention plan and will involve other stakeholders and private entities as needed to reach the goals of the plan (Engdahl, 2014). According to an article found in the Encyclopedia of drug policy, which pertains to illicit drug use as well as prescription drug abuse, “in an effort to provide a comprehensive and balanced anti-drug policy of supply and demand reduction, President Obama’s anti-drug program focused on five primary areas: prevention, treatment, domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international support” (Ritter & Moore, 2011).

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The Problem of Prescription Painkiller Abuse in the United States. (2022, Feb 26). Retrieved from

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