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Survey says prescription drug abuse declining

October 08, 2012

Prescription drug abuse among young adults declined significantly last year, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The number of people 18-25 who used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes decreased 14 percent, from 2 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011. This decline has driven an overall 12 percent drop in the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs.

The survey, which can be found at, comes from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“These results are encouraging, but we cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball,” said Gil Kerlikowske, National Drug Control Policy director. “The abuse of painkillers in America continues to take too many lives, tear apart too many families, and place too much of a burden on communities across the Nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse remains an epidemic.”

To address the problem of prescription drug abuse, President Obama’s administration in 2011 released a comprehensive prescription drug plan, titled “Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis.” A national framework for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse, the plan supports the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts.

The ADA is also doing its part to educate members on prescription drug abuse. The Association received a sub-award from the American Academy of Addictive Psychiatry from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, which received a grant to create webinars and training on treating pain and opioid addiction.

The center is paying for the Prescriber’s Clinical Support System for the Appropriate Use of Opioids in the Treatment of Pain and Opioid-related Addiction, which is a collaborative effort among a handful of medical associations that will provide training and education on the topic.