Chances are at some point in your life, you or a family member will be prescribed a narcotic pain reliever - Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Lortab, etc. - by a physician or dentist. In fact, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month (cdc.gov). Yet many don't understand -or under estimate -the addictive nature of these medications, especially if abused. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem facing our Nation today (whitehouse.gov/ondcp). For the first time in our history, the number of overdoses has surpassed automobile fatalities (cdc.gov).
Most who misuse these substances, especially teens, believe they are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a health care professional (whitehouse.gov/ondcp).
Prescription painkillers are opiate-based, just like heroin, and can be every bit as addictive and deadly when abused. For some, this addiction leads them to heroin - a cheaper, more powerful alternative.
While today's drug addiction respects no geographic, ethnic, economic or social boundaries, there are some groups - young people, our military, and the elderly -who are particularly vulnerable.
More than 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers non-medically in 2010. - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
According to a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), prescription drugs are the number one choice to "get high" among 12-13 year- olds and one in five high school students report misusing prescription drugs. Furthermore, the study shows that over 70 percent of people who abuse prescription medications get them from friends or relatives.
Unfortunately, today's drug addiction is no longer someone else's problem. With millions currently abusing prescription painkillers and thousands more moving on to heroin, the sad reality is it will probably touch all of us sooner or later.