Pill Popping in Slight Decline

Prescription painkiller misuse has not increased in the US over the past year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) In the US, the most frequent use of illegal drugs is marijuana. The second most frequent use of illegal drugs was prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes.

A recent report on drug use in the US found prescription painkiller misuse has only barely declined over the past year.

While a slight decline is better than an increase, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration supports an increase in public education of the harmful effects of prescription painkiller misuse.

"Drop off unused Rx at a pharmacy."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a new report on prescription drug misuse, or non-medical use, in the US. For the study, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was collected from people 12 years of age and over from all over the US and analyzed between 2009-2011.

The report highlights the misuse of prescription drugs by approximately 22 million people in the US since 2002.

Overall, from 2010-2011, misuse of prescription painkillers was reported by 4.6 percent of those surveyed. The lowest rate, 3.6 percent, was found in the state of Iowa. The highest rate, 6.4 percent, was found in the state of Oregon.

When researchers compared data from the 2009-2010 survey to the 2010-2011 survey, they found that no state had increased rates of prescription painkiller misuse. Rather, misuse decreased in 10 states: Oklahoma, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia. In 2009, the overall survey results showed a 4.9 percent rate of misuse nationwide.

Of the states with the highest rates of misuse, seven were in the western part of the country: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The other three were Indiana, Arkansas and Delaware.

Authors concluded, “These findings suggest that efforts to reduce the nonmedical use of pain relievers have resulted in some progress, although this progress has not been uniform across all states.”

SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, said, “The key is educating the public on the serious health risks involved, and ensuring that we are providing the necessary treatment to those who need it.”

Director of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, said, “As we continue to focus on this challenge at the federal level, we hope people will also endeavor to learn more about the harms associated with prescription drug abuse and take time to empty medicine cabinets of any excess, unneeded, or expired prescription medications.”

While the rates of misuse prescription painkiller have dropped since the last report, misuse is still a serious health concern.

This study was published in January on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 14, 2013
Last Updated:
January 17, 2013