Drug Abuse and Overdose
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in America and has been classified as an epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[i] Every 14 minutes, an American dies from a drug overdose - leading to 100 deaths per day in the U.S.[ii][iii] In fact, today, unintentional prescription opioid overdoses kill more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined.[iv]
Death rates from drug overdoses among women have risen more sharply over the last decade than for men, and more women now die of overdoses from pain pills like OxyContin than from cervical cancer or homicide.[v]
In 2009, more than 7 million Americans reported having used prescription medication for non-medical purposes.[vi] This is especially alarming because that number includes 12 and 13-year-olds, who report abusing prescription drugs more than any other type of drug. Statistics show that 7 out of 10 prescription pain relief abusers get their drugs from family and friends.[vii]
Every 15 minutes, a child under the age of four will overdose on drugs found at home.[viii] According to the CDC, between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children were brought to emergency rooms for poisoning after having consumed drugs while unsupervised. Among children, emergency room visits for drug poisonings (excluding misuse or abuse) are twice as common as poisonings from other household products.[ix]
Easy access to pharmaceuticals in the home
Every year across the U.S., prescription and over-the-counter drugs are manufactured, marketed, prescribed, dispensed, and discarded at extraordinary rates. The exact quantity of unused and expired pharmaceuticals in American homes is currently unknown; however, evidence from a broad range of sources indicates that between 10 and 43 percent of the almost 4 billion prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. every year go unused and become waste.[x]
As a result, medications steadily accumulate in the home, where the vast majority are improperly discarded or stored indefinitely. Storing unwanted and unused medications provides easy access, placing human and animal health at risk of accidental ingestion, overdose, or abuse. For example, the results of a 2008 study showed that approximately six out of 10 teenagers agree that prescription drugs are easy to get from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and cited medicine cabinets as the main source of obtaining prescription drugs.[xi]
A rising incidence of prescription drug addiction also contributes to an increase in drug-related crimes, including violent home break-ins and even murders of elderly citizens to gain access to their medicine cabinets.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Drug Overdose Rates by State in 2008
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[i] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses. Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/.
[ii] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2013). Opioids drive continued increase in drug overdose deaths [Press Release]. Retrieved 24 September 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0220_drug_overdose_deaths.html.
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER). Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortsql.html.
[iii] Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses. Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/.
[iv] Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, November). Prescription painkiller overdoses at epidemic levels kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined [Press Release]. Retrieved 12 Dec. 2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p1101_flu_pain_killer_overdose.html.
[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (July, 2013). Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses. Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/PrescriptionPainkillerOverdoses/index.html.
[vi] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4713. Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/nsduh/2k11results/nsduhresults2011.htm.
[vii] Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses. Retrieved 7 July 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/.
[viii] National SAFE KIDS Campaign (NSKC). (2004). Poisoning Fact Sheet. Retrieved 20 Dec. 2011 from http://www.takebackyourmeds.org/pdf-files/facebook-ad-child-overdose.
[ix] Schillie SF, Shehab, N, Thomas, KE, Budnitz DS. (2009). Medication overdoses leading to emergency department visits among children. Am J Prev Med 2009;37:181-187.
[x] Grasso, Cheri, et al. (2009). Secure Medicine Return in Washington State: The PH:ARM Pilot. Seattle, Washington: Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. Retrieved from www.medicinereturn.com/resources; U.S. Census Bureau. "Health and Nutrition.” In Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/10statab/health.pdf, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/06statab/health.pdf; The Henry Kaiser Family Foundation. (2011). "Total Number of Retail Prescription Drugs Filled at Pharmacies, 2010.” In State Health Facts. Retrieved 11 Jan. 2012 from http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=265; IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (2010, December). National Prescription Audit™ Plus, MAT.
[xi] Partnership for a Drug Free America. 2009, February. Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: Teens 2008 Report. Retrieved 12 Dec. 2011 from http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Full-Report-FINAL-PATS-Teens-2008_updated.pdf.