U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Prescription Drug Epidemic in the United States: A Perfect Storm

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Review Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2011 Pages: 264-270
Jane Carlisle Maxwell
Date Published
May 2011
7 pages
This study examined the factors contributing to the epidemic of abuse of prescription analgesics in the United States.
Study findings include: for 2008 and 2009, 55 percent of individuals who used prescription pain relievers non-medically in the past year received them from a friend or relative, while 18 percent reported they got the drugs from one doctor; in 2009, the highest rate of non-medical use of prescription pain relievers was reported among those age 18-25 (12 percent); for the year 2009-2010, 59 percent of students in the 12th grade reported that they were given narcotics other than heroin from a friend or a relative, while 33 percent reported buying the drugs from a friend or relative; and between 2004 and 2009, the rate of emergency room visits for abuse of narcotic analgesics increased by 263 percent for those aged 25-29, 254 percent for those aged 55-64, and 240 percent for those 64 and older. The aim of this study was to examine the factors that have contributed to the epidemic of abuse of prescription analgesics. Data for the study were obtained from several sources: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Monitoring the Future Survey, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, the Treatment Episode Data Set, Mortality Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, and the National Forensic Laboratory Information System. These data sources were analyzed to identify trends in the abuse of prescription narcotics. The findings indicate that abuse of prescription narcotics is increasing and that the patterns of abuse show significant variation by different high-risk groups and different geographic locations. Factors that have been identified as contributing to this epidemic include marketing strategies by pharmaceutical companies, incorrect prescribing practices by physicians, a variety of legal and illegal sources for the drugs, and delayed responses from government officials. Implications for handling this epidemic at the State and Federal levels are discussed. Figures, tables, and references


No download available