Prescription Drugs/Opioids

header-prescriptionPrescription drug abuse is the intentional use of a medication without a prescription; in a way other than prescribed; or for the feeling it causes. (NIDA)

In the United States one person dies every 19 minutes from prescription drugs. (CDC)

  • Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month. (CDC)
  • 12 million Americans abused prescription painkillers in 2009. (CDC)
  • Prescription painkillers killed nearly 15,000 people in the US in 2008. (CDC) They kill more people than street drugs or motor vehicle accidents.
  • Pain meds (e.g., Oxycontin) are the most abused prescriptions. Also commonly abused are depressants (e.g., Xanax), stimulants (e.g., Adderall), and over-the-counter meds for cough (e.g., DXM), allergy, sleep, weight-loss and motion sickness. (NIDA)

At least seven Floridians die every day from prescription drugs.

Risk Factors

Prescription drug abuse cuts across gender, age and race; however certain groups may be more at risk.


Abuse of prescription drugs is rising fast among youth. Young people have a perception that prescriptions are safe because a doctor prescribed them. They also become addicted more easily than adults.

  • Each day 2500 teens abuse prescription drugs for the first time.
  • One in five teens abuse prescription drugs.
  • Prescriptions are the drug of choice among 12- and 13-year-olds.


Seniors are at risk due to long-term use of addictive drugs such as those for joint pain and insomnia. They are also more likely to be over-medicated, especially those who get prescriptions from more than one physician or pharmacy. Substance abuse in older adults often goes unrecognized.

  • Nearly 30% of those aged 57-85 use at least five prescriptions.
  • Prescriptions are the most commonly abused drug among those aged 65 or older.
  • By 2020, the number of persons needing treatment for substance abuse will double among those aged 50 or older.


  • Abuse of prescription drugs among active duty service members tripled from 2005-2008 (4% to 11%.)
  • Prescription drugs were involved in almost one-third of the active duty suicides in 2009.
  • Pain relievers were the most commonly abused prescription.