Young people may finally be getting the message about the danger of abusing painkillers and other prescription drugs. A new report shows a 14 percent drop in the number of young adults aged 18 to 25 who are abusing pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives.
Overall, there was a 12% decline in the number of Americans who abuse prescription drugs.
And painkiller abuse dropped from 2.1% of the population in 2009 to 1.7% in 2011.
“These findings show that national efforts to address the problem of prescription drug misuse may be beginning to bear fruit and we must continue to apply this pressure to drive down this and other forms of substance use,” said Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
But the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health also contains some sobering reminders about the nation’s illicit use of drugs.
- 2.3 million Americans abused prescription drugs for the first time last year
- 1.4 million Americans are addicted to painkillers
- 22.5 million Americans regularly use illicit drugs or abuse prescription drugs
- Seven percent of Americans use marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug
- Over 21 million Americans needed treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, but only about 10% received it
While the survey found prescription drug abuse declined among young adults, it remained the same for older adults and teens aged 12-17.
“These new data show the abuse of prescription medicine remains a pervasive problem among our nation’s youth and although there’s been improvement among young adults, medicine abuse is a health concern that continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of our children,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “From the easy accessibility that teens have to medicines in their own homes, coupled with a low perception of risk in abusing them – to parents giving their own kids medicines that are not prescribed to them – we must all take action to stop this behavior.”
Diversion, not pill mills or drug dealers, played the biggest role in prescription drug abuse. The study found that over half of prescription drug abusers obtained the drugs for free through a friend or relative. Less than 1 in 20 users got pain relievers from a drug dealer or stranger. And less than 2% got pain killers from doctor shopping – going from one doctor to another to obtain a prescription.