Per the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):

  • Nearly 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs—more than the number who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy, and inhalants, combined. That 7 million was just 3.8 million in 2000, an 80 percent increase in just 6 years.
  • Prescription pain relievers are new drug users’ drug of choice, vs. marijuana or cocaine.
  • Opioid painkillers now cause more drug overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors admits to abusing powerful prescription painkillers. A shocking 40 percent of teens and an almost equal number of their parents think abusing prescription painkillers is safer than abusing “street” drugs.
  • Misuse of painkillers represents three-fourths of the overall problem of prescription drug abuse; hydrocodone is the most commonly diverted and abused controlled pharmaceutical in the U.S.
  • Twenty-five percent of drug-related emergency department visits are associated with abuse of prescription drugs.
  • Methods of acquiring prescription drugs for abuse include “doctor-shopping,” traditional drug-dealing, theft from pharmacies or homes, illicitly acquiring prescription drugs via the Internet, and from friends or relatives.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that approximately one-third of all drug abuse in the US is prescription drug abuse. According to the latest available statistics from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse killed 8,500 Americans in 2005. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • Approximately 6.2 million Americans aged 12 or older reported current (past month) use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, representing 2.5% of the population. Most reported abusing opiate pain relievers in particular.
  • The overwhelming majority of teens obtain prescription drugs through people they know. Research shows that over 45 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who abuse prescription pain relievers get them for free from a friend or relative. Another 11 percent of these teens buy them from friends or relatives, and an additional 10 percent take them from friends or relatives without asking.

Lack of adequate security of abuse-potential medications contributes to prescription drug abuse, across all age groups, from pre-teens to the elderly, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Per the NIDA:

Prescription drug abuse is a significant emerging problem in the United States. Prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed. Abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health effects, including addiction.

Commonly abused classes of prescription medications include opioids (for pain), central nervous system depressants (for anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (for ADHD and narcolepsy). Opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (OxyContin®), propoxyphene (Darvon®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), meperidine (Demerol®), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil®). Central nervous system depressants include barbiturates such as pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®), and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium®) and alprazolam (Xanax®). Stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®), and amphetamines (Adderall®).

In 2008, 15.2 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Web Site).

Abuse of prescription drugs is particularly problematic among adolescents:

  • NIDA’s 2007 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey found continued high rates of nonmedical use of the prescription pain relievers Vicodin and OxyContin in each grade. In 2007, many 12th grade students reported nonmedical use of Vicodin and OxyContin during the past year– 9.6% and 5.2%, respectively (figure).
  • And while the non-medical use of some stimulants (i.e., methamphetamine) decreased among 12th graders between 2006 and 2007, levels reported remain high. For past year nonmedical use of amphetamines, 7.5% of 12th graders reported abuse; for Ritalin, 3.8% reported abuse; and for methamphetamine, 1.7% reported abuse.

It is generally believed that the broad availability of prescription drugs (e.g., via the medicine cabinet, the Internet, and physicians) and misperceptions about their safety make prescription medications particularly prone to abuse.

Among those who abuse prescription drugs, high rates of other risky behaviors, including abuse of other drugs and alcohol, have also been reported.

In 2006, approximately 7.0 million Americans were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken nonmedically (2.8 percent of the U.S. population). This class of drugs is broadly described as those targeting the central nervous system, including drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders (NSDUH, 2007).

Estimated US non-medical user counts by medication type:
Pain relievers – 5.2 million
Tranquilizers – 1.8 million
Stimulants – 1.2 million
Sedatives – 0.4 million.

Risks of prescription drug abuse

Opioids:

  • High risk for addiction and overdose. This is a major concern, particularly for recently synthesized slow release formulations, which abusers override by crushing the pills and injecting or snorting the contents, heightening their risk for respiratory depression and death.
  • Dangerous combination effects. Combining opioids with other drugs, including alcohol, can intensify respiratory distress.

CNS Depressants:

  • Addiction and withdrawal dangers. These drugs can be highly addictive and, in chronic users, discontinuing them absent a physician’s guidance can bring about severe withdrawal symptoms that must be properly managed by a medical professional.
  • Risk of overdose. Overdose can cause severe breathing problems and lead to death, especially when these drugs are combined with other medications or alcohol.

Stimulants:

  • Reputation as performance enhancers. Incorrectly perceived as safe for enhancing academic achievement and weight loss, these drugs are highly addictive and potentially harmful.
  • Range of risky health consequences. These include risk of dangerously high body temperature, seizures, and cardiovascular complications.

“Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Because prescription drugs are legal, they are easily accessible, often from a home medicine cabinet.”
(Office of National Drug Control Policy)

The common “pop top, access all at once” container for such medications has significant inherent risk- remove the lid and all of the medication inside is immediately available to ingest, steal, share, or sell.

The patented Dose Control ™ device is a more secure alternative- designed to dispense pills, tablets, or capsules no faster than the prescribed and programmed rate. Pre-configured blister packs or individually loaded medications are accommodated.

Dose Control ™ is especially focused toward abuse-potential medications: opioids, stimulants, and depressants.