Study: Prescription Misuse Is a Top Public-Health Concern

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ROCKVILLE, Md.—Prescription drug misuse is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illicit drug problem, with approximately 22 million persons nationwide initiating nonmedical pain reliever use since 2002, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report also shows variations in use by state, with combined 2010 and 2011 data indicating that rates of past year misuse among those aged 12 or older ranged from 3.6 percent in Iowa to 6.4 percent in Oregon.

“Addressing prescription drug misuse remains a top public health priority, as we’ve seen inconsistent progress in addressing the issue across the states," said SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde. “Data from this report helps up better understand geographic variations in use and should help with the development of more targeted and effective prevention and treatment programs. The key is educating the public on the serious health risks involved and ensuring that we are providing the necessary treatment to those who need it."

“Prescription drug abuse is a major problem throughout our nation," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “These data reaffirm how vital it is for the public health and public safety communities to work together to reduce the toll prescription drug abuse inflicts on our cities, towns and neighborhoods. As we continue to focus on this challenge at the federal level, we hope people will also endeavor to learn more about the harms associated with prescription drug abuse and take time to empty medicine cabinets of any excess, unneeded or expired prescription medications."

Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers were in the West (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington). Four of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota), and four were in the South (Florida, Georgia, Maryland and North Carolina).

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