According to the most recent national data, prescription medicines are the most commonly abused substance after marijuana. In 2014, more than 6.5 million Americans over age 12 reported abusing prescription drugs during the previous month and 4.3 million reported abusing prescription pain relievers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137% since 2000, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including both opioid pain relievers and heroin).
Prescription medications are generally safe, but only when they are taken as prescribed and for the intended purpose. When they are abused—taken in ways that are not prescribed—they can cause an array of adverse health effects, including overdose and death. The risk of injury or death is even greater when prescription medications are abused alongside other drugs or alcohol.
Given the growing toll related to the abuse of prescription opioids and heroin, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) remains deeply committed to working collectively to prevent the misuse, abuse and diversion of prescription medicines. We need a balanced approach that ensures appropriate treatment of pain while also addressing this critical public health challenge.