Despite an earlier report from SAMHSA on the decline of prescription drug abuse in the US, from 2.7% to 2.5% of Americans, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription painkiller abuse remains a severely unrecognized and underserved problem in the US.
According to the report, released last Wednesday, September 30, 2009, more than half of the 26,000 fatal overdoses each year are caused by prescription painkillers, overtaking both heroin and cocaine. Moreover, death from opioid painkillers more than tripled from 1999 to 2006, with rates equally as high in rural areas than in metropolitan areas.
Prescription painkillers are now the leading cause of fatal overdoses.
Prescription drug abuse can easily go unrecognized for a number of factors. Especially on a national level, there is very little increase in street crime and violence in association with prescription drug abuse. As well, there is a pervasive misunderstanding that anything prescribed by a doctor must be safe. Prescription painkillers do not have the stigma of illicit drugs and as such, their overuse and abuse can be easily excused. Nonetheless, prescription drug abuse is best treated with a drug rehab program involving counseling.