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The Most Common Prescription Drugs Abused

The most commonly misused prescription drugs fall into three classes:

  • Opioids include oxycodone (Percocet, Tylox, OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), and methadone (Dolophine)
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants include butalbital (Fiorinal/Fioricet), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Stimulants include methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine dextroamphetamine (Adderall).

Google Settlement

Rhode Island Office of Attorney General is a member of the FDA/OCI Task Force that led an investigation into Google and the illegal marketing and selling of prescription meds to Americans by online Canadian pharmacies. Click here to read the press release.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is quickly becoming a major epidemic in Rhode Island and across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more Rhode Islanders die from accidental prescription drug overdose than any other cause of death.

What’s the cause of this epidemic? With the advances in pharmaceutical medications, a growing number of Americans use prescription medications to ease pain and keep ailments at bay. An unintended consequence of the rise of pharmaceutical use is the misuse – or abuse – of prescription medications.

And, the number of individuals, especially teenagers, who abuse prescription medication is growing. Attorney General Kilmartin is committed to combating prescription drug abuse, and to assist those who need medical and behavioral assistance due to addiction.

What is prescription drug abuse?

  • 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.
  • While there is still a great deal we don’t know about prescription drug abuse, the statistics are astounding and alarming:
  • In a 2007 report, the Office of National Drug Control Policy found that among young people in the United States, prescription drugs have become the second most abused illegal drug, behind marijuana.
  • Among 12th graders, pharmaceutical drugs used non-medically are six of the ten most-used substances.
  • From 1998 to 2008, the proportion of all substance abuse treatment admissions age 12 or older who reported any pain reliever abuse increased more than fourfold. the amount people admitted for substance abuse treatment who reported pain reliever abuse increased more than 400%.
  • Prescription painkillers are a major contributor to the total number of drug deaths in the U.S. In 2007, for example, nearly 28,000 Americans died from unintentional drug poisoning, and of these, nearly 12,000 involved prescription pain relievers.
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of people age 12 or older who used illicit drugs for the first time in the past year began by using prescription drugs non-medically.
  • According to a 2008 Department of Defense survey, about one in nine active-duty service members (11 percent) reported past-month prescription drug misuse.
  • The estimated number of emergency department visits linked to non-medical use of prescription pain relievers nearly doubled between 2004 and 2009. In 2009, the number of first-time, non-medical users of psychotherapeutics (prescription opioid pain relievers, tranquilizers, sedatives, and stimulants) was about the same as the number of first-time marijuana users.
  • Approximately two million adults age 50 and older (2.1 percent of adults in that age range) used prescription-type drugs non-medically in the past year. Substance abuse treatment admissions for individuals age 50 or older nearly doubled from 1992 to 2008, climbing from 6.6 percent of all admissions to 12.2 percent. The percentage of primary admissions for prescription drug abuse among older individuals increased from 0.7 percent to 3.5 percent over the same time period.

Where do teens get prescription drugs?

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people age 12 or older who reported using pain relievers non-medically in the past year, 70 percent got the drugs from a friend or relative (either for free, purchased, or by theft). Another 18 percent reported getting the drug from a doctor. Only about 5 percent reported obtaining pain relievers from a drug dealer or other stranger, and less than half of one-percent bought the drugs on the Internet.

Why do teens abuse prescription drug abuse?

Teens are abusing prescription drugs because they believe the myth that these drugs are safer than traditional street drugs. In a 2006 study, 31 percent of teens surveyed believed that prescription drugs were safer than illegal drugs, even if they are not prescribed by a physician, and nearly one-third believed they were not addictive.

Know what’s in your medicine cabinet and properly discard expired or unused prescription medications

Parents, grandparents and other adults should check their medicine cabinets and properly discard any prescription drugs that are no longer required to treat a medical condition so that these medications are not available to be misused.

Where can I get help?

The Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals offers a vast array of substance abuse programs. To learn more and for a list of available resources and community programs, please visit: http://www.bhddh.ri.gov/SA/links.php