According to data published in 2010, our nation has seen a 400% increase in rehab admissions over the last decade amongst those abusing prescription drugs. The vast number of those struggling with addictions to pharmaceutical opioid painkillers now makes prescription substances our nation’s second-most popular drug category for abuse in the United States.
Why do opioid pain relievers produce such severe dependency in some users? A recent and comprehensive study conducted at a federal level provides valuable insights into this national epidemic.
Data Reveals Prescription Painkiller Addiction Treatment on the Rise
In a recent study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), experts reported a shocking 400% increase in treatment admissions amongst those experiencing dependency to prescription opioid painkillers. While these numbers may indicate that more Americans are seeking help for their substance abuse issues as a result of increased awareness about prescription drug addiction, experts continue to worry that this aspect of addiction will continue to grow more serious.
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., Administrator for SAMHSA, feels strongly that more resources are needed to properly prevent, detect and resolve prescription drug abuse in the US. In a recent quote, Hyde said, “The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the Nation, and its tragic consequences are seen in substance abuse treatment centers and hospital emergency departments throughout our Nation. This public health threat demands that we follow the President’s National Drug Control Strategy’s call for an all-out effort to raise awareness of this risk and the critical importance of properly using, storing, and disposing of these powerful drugs.”
The addictive qualities of prescription pain relieving drugs are a key factor in analyzing the rise in treatment admissions, but accessibility is yet another important aspect of the issue. In the 10-year period of SAMHSA’s study, the number of annual prescriptions increased from 22 million per year to 354 million per year just a decade later. This excessive level of prescribed drugs pumps millions of habit-forming opioids into American hands, contributing to increased levels of abuse and addiction.
Gil Kerlikowske, Director for the National Drug Policy, has called prescription abuse America’s fastest-growing drug problem, and he further stated, “The spikes in prescription drug abuse rates captured by this study are dramatic, pervasive, and deeply disturbing.”
The National Drug Control Strategy: What Can You Do?
Hyde strongly recommends a national adherence to the President’s proposed plan to reform drug policy in the United States which calls for a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the risk of prescriptions and the importance of handling, storing and disposing of medical prescriptions correctly. Updated for 2013, the President’s National Drug Control Strategy outlines the four key aspects required to effectively battle the public health issue of substance abuse:
- PREVENTION of drug abuse in youth through sufficient and factual drug education
- EXPANSION of treatment resources, facilities and programs for Americans who struggle with substance abuse currently
- REFORM of the US criminal justice system to include measures which focus on breaking the cycle of addiction, rather than solely incarcerating addicts without ample rehabilitation
- SUPPORT those who are in recovery by raising awareness and eliminating the stigmas associated with drug and alcohol abuse
Look for local support groups in your area, or lend a hand at events which raise awareness about the devastating effects of substance abuse. The involvement of every citizen can and will make a difference.