Prescription Drug Abuse: The New Killer on the Block

South Carolina Drug Crime Attorneys

According to an article today in the Huffington Post, every 14 minutes a person dies from a prescription drug overdose in the United States.  This adds up to more than 35,000 deaths every year, exceeding the number of deaths suffered as a result of a car wreck, homicide, or suicide. 

The director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), R. Gil Kerlikowske, stated the illegal use of prescription drugs, particularly  narcotic medications in pill form is the nation’s “fastest-growing drug problem.”

What once dominated the world of overdoses in the U.S., namely heroin, has been eclipsed by the prescription painkillers (see below). These drugs are termed opioid analgesics, referring to substances produced from the opium poppy or manufactured synthetically with the same pain killing effects on the human brain (analgesic means lack of pain).

Where are the drugs coming from? More than 70 percent of those who have abused prescription narcotics got them from a friend or relative who had a prescription. In other words, the supplier is no stranger. And the problem starts early: A 2009 national survey done by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (a federal agency) demonstrated that as many as 33% of kids ages 12 and older began their path to drug abuse by using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, namely to get high.

According to a report issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, it may be easier for your teen to obtain prescription drugs than beer.

In 2009, hydrocodone (Vicodin™ and generic equivalents) was the most prescribed prescription drug in the U.S. — with the number of prescriptions doubling that of the second most prescribed drug, Lipitor™.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration of the US Department of Justice, the sales of opioids have increased more than six-fold since 1997.

We’ve learned through experience in drug control that police-like interventions of finding bad guys and locking them up doesn’t work. Public health approaches through education stand a far better chance of reducing abuse, saving lives and even saving money.

While no single approach works for the diversity of problems that drive this epidemic, there are a number of approaches that have proven effective in states that have implemented them, and that have gathered the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ONDCP.

As a parent, I urge you to discuss prescription and illegal drug abuse with your children and to stay actively involved in your children’s lives.  Know their friends and make sure that you know where your children are.  A drug charge can seriously damage your child’s academic and professional future.  A conviction for possession of illegal drugs or possession of prescription drugs  can result in academic discipline, the loss of financial aid or scholarship money, and preclude your child from obtaining a professional license.  For more information on how to talk to your teen, visit  http://www.nida.nih.gov/prevention/index.html.  


By: Pete Strom, South Carolina Drug Crime Lawyer