What Is The Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics?

Over the last decade, abuse of prescription drugs has become a growing issue, resulting in more treatment entries for prescription drug dependence and a rise in overdose deaths. Medications that are often abused comprise opioid pain relievers, like Oxycontin; CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants to deal with sleep disorders and anxiety; and stimulants like the kind prescribed for ADHD. Although these drugs are prescribed legally, they are frequently deemed harmless. Nonetheless, their affordability and accessibility leave them open to use. Because of this, there has been a rise in prescription drug misuse.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs


One of the most commonly abused prescription drugs is opioids. They are synthetic and natural compounds that are prescribed primarily for the relief of pain. If taken precisely as defined, they can effectively and safely manage pain with injuries or those recovering from surgery. At the same time, opioid abuse is hazardous and can lead to death. 


Stimulants like Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin are generally prescribed to increase attention, alertness, and energy. Stimulants are primarily prescribed for treating sleep disorders and ADHD and enhancing antidepressants. When abused, stimulants are generally taken orally. However, some people dissolve these pills in water and inject the mixture. This can potentially result in vascular problems.

Numerous medical dangers are related to stimulant abuse, mainly associated with the cardiovascular system. Irregular or rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart failure are just a few instances. In addition, there can also be severe psychiatric outcomes to stimulant abuse.


Another drug group that leads to increased overdose deaths in the US is sedative-hypnotics, mainly benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.

Dextromethorphan (DXM)

One of the most generally abused over-the-counter medications is cough syrup and caplets, including dextromethorphan (DXM). If used as directed, these cough treatments are effective and safe, but their ability for abuse is great. Adolescents are particularly at hazard for abusing OTC cough medicines that include DXM.

DXM can generate mind-altering consequences similar to ketamine and PCP because it influences identical brain regions. Nonetheless, excessive cough medication must be consumed to attain these effects.  

Causes Of Prescription Drug Abuse

Adults and teens abuse prescription drugs for several reasons. The causes of prescription drug abuse are:

  • To get high or feel good 
  • To relieve tension
  • To relief pain
  • To lessen appetite
  • To boost alertness
  • To be accepted by peers 
  • To experiment with the mental consequences of the substance
  • To retain an addiction and prevent withdrawal
  • To try to enhance concentration and work performance

Rise In Prescription Drug Abuse

Millions Of Americans Have Recorded Prescription Drugs Misuse

In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2020 reports millions of Americans 12 years or older abused prescription medication during the year. More specifically:

  • About 16.1 million recorded prescription psychotherapeutic drugs misuse.
  • About 5.1 million recorded prescription stimulants misuse.
  • About 6.2 million recorded prescription tranquilizers or sedatives misuse.
  • About 4.8 million recorded benzodiazepines misuse.
  • About 9.3 million recorded prescription pain relievers misuse.

As per the 2021 Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report, released by the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), the most-frequently categories of prescription drugs:

  • Opioids like fentanyl, Vicodin, and oxycodone
  • CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants like Xanax, Valium, and Ambien
  • Stimulants like Adderall

Young people record high rates of misusing prescription drugs. As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2020, 9.3 million people abused prescription pain relievers past year. The highest percentage of 4.1% of these people were young adults between 18-25, followed by 3.4% of adults of 26 years or older. 

Nonetheless, it is significant to note that this kind of drug abuse is not limited to the young. Moreover, for nearly 2/3rd of the past year, initiates used prescription pain relievers for the initial time after age twenty-five. In other words, 774,000 adults aged 26 years or older started misusing prescription pain relievers in 2020.

Misuse Of Opioids Is More Likely To Happen With Extended Use Of The Drugs. 

The opioid epidemic is an outcome of the rise in prescription drug abuse. Nonetheless, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2020 reports that most of those who abused opioids in 2020 were taking prescription forms of these drugs.

Nonetheless, patients who proceed with long-term use of opioids formulate opioid use disorder in eight to twelve percent of cases. Also, twenty-one to twenty-nine percent misuses their opioids. Of the whole patients who abuse heroin, eight percent of them initially misused prescribed opioids.

Opioids Are The Main Contributor To Prescription Drug Overdose Casualties. 

Although people frequently hear about the illegal use of opioids, the amount of overdose deaths comprising prescription opioid abuse statistics in the US is significant. The trends highlighted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):

  • An average of thirty-eight people died each day from an overdose encompassing prescription opioids in 2019, with more than fourteen thousand casualties during the year.
  • Prescription opioids amount to a contributing factor in more than twenty-eight percent of all opioid overdose casualties in 2019. 

Why Is There A Rise In Prescription Drug Abuse?

Some professionals think more people misuse prescription medications because more drugs are accessible. Physicians document writing more prescriptions than ever before. Moreover, it is simple to find online pharmacies selling these prescription drugs. Teens may use drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinets for themselves or their friends. Many young people do not know what medications they are taking, which may result in serious problems, even death if taken with alcohol or other drugs. They might also think the medicines are effective and safe as they are prescriptions.

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