Prescription Drug Addiction Reaching Alarming Levels, Says DEA

Prescription Drug Addiction Reaching Alarming Levels, Says DEA

If you know 10 teenagers - or have seen 10 different teens at the mall or anywhere else in America - chances are that one of them is abusing the dangerously addictive painkiller OxyContin or either of the amphetamines Ritalin or Adderall, and two of these kids are getting high on the addictive painkiller Vicodin. Dependence can start at any age, but the recent increase in prescription drug addiction among teens and young adults is nothing short of "alarming", according to a Drug Enforcement Agency report released last Friday.

The most recent statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services reveal that 6.7 million people aged 12 and over, that's nearly 3 percent of Americans, were current non-medical abusers of psychotherapeutic drugs - pain relievers, anti-anxiety medications, stimulants and sedatives. In the two years since that survey, other surveys indicate that these numbers are continuing to rise, and that prescription drug addiction is beginning to eclipse addiction to the traditional illicit "street drugs".

Results of a separate study of seventh through twelfth grade students from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America showed for the first time in its 17-year history that teenagers are more likely to have abused a prescription pain medication to get high than illicit drugs like Ecstasy, cocaine, crack and LSD.

In fact, the numbers of people falling prey to prescription drug addiction, particularly young people, may be rising even faster than the numbers of people who just try prescription drugs for the first time - a grim testament to the awesome power of psychoactive prescription drugs to swiftly create a prescription drug addiction.

Estimates based on the 2006 survey showed that 5.2 million people 12 and older used pain relievers, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, 1.2 million used stimulants, and 0.4 million used sedatives - just to try to get high. Except for tranquilizers, these estimates are all increases from the corresponding estimates for 2005. Vicodin and OxyContin, two of the most addictive opioid painkillers, continued to be abused in record numbers.

Most people are concerned about prescription drug addiction. But if you're an American adult, you're also concerned about the high cost of medical care and with the rising number of emergency ward closures across the country due to those costs. Consider this: in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, 66 percent, or two-thirds, of the 599,000 emergency room visits involving the nonmedical use of drugs of any kind, were caused by controlled substances - 172,000 involved benzodiazepines, 196,000 involved opiates, and the rest a mix of other prescription drugs. Many of these drugs can lead to prescription drug addiction.

If you, a member of your family, or a friend of any age appears to be at risk of prescription drug addiction, don't hesitate to recommend that they seek help immediately at a medical drug detox center.

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