Prescription drug abuse is the intentional use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feeling it causes (for the “high”). It is a problem that deserves attention, especially from healthcare professionals. While prescription drugs can be powerful healing tools, they also pose serious health risks related to their abuse.31
In 2013, 6.5 million Americans aged 12 or older (2.5%) had used prescription drugs nonmedically in the past month.30 Additionally, there were approximately 2 million persons aged 12 or older who used psychotherapeutics nonmedically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 5,500 initiates per day.38 The classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused are: opioid pain relievers, such as Vicodin® or OxyContin®; stimulants for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall®, Concerta®, or Ritalin®; and central nervous system (CNS) depressants for relieving anxiety, such as Valium® or Xanax®.1
Prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medications account for most of the commonly abused drugs by high school seniors (Figure 9). After alcohol and marijuana, Rx and OTC medications are the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older. When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for nonmedical use, 70% of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative.31
There are several factors that contribute to prescription drug abuse:
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