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About Half of Americans Take Rx Painkillers, Sedatives or Stimulants

 

By Jonathan Block

September 12, 2016

About Half of Americans Take Rx Painkillers, Sedatives or Stimulants

Last year, almost 45% of Americans aged 12 and older took prescription pain relievers, sedatives, stimulants or tranquilizers, accounting for 119 million people. However, even more concerning is that 19 million of those – or 16% – misused those drugs, according to new federal data.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that misuse of these medications – known as psychotherapeutic drugs – is second only to marijuana as the country’s most prevalent illegal drug use issue.

Among those who abused prescription pain pills, the majority (54%) received their pills from a friend or relative. About one-third misused a prescription given by a doctor by taking more than the prescribed dose. And about 1 in 20 got their pain reliever from a drug dealer or stranger.

Just as troubling is the fact that most of the people with a drug problem never sought treatment.

A Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration official told reporters at a recent news conference that while 1 in 12 people over the age of 12 needed treatment for substance abuse, about 90% never sought specialized treatment that could have helped them. That figure includes both prescription drug abuse and street drug abuse.

Overall, about 2.7 million people had a prescription drug use disorder in the past year. The vast majority (2 million) was for pain reliever use disorder, followed by 688,000 with a tranquilizer use disorder, 426,000 with a stimulant use disorder and 154,000 with a sedative use disorder.

In March, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released guidelines for opioid prescribers that aim to cut down on painkiller abuse.

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Last updated: September 12, 2016