Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

Prescription Drug Misuse

For alcohol and illicit drug abuse, visit our Underage Drinking & Illicit Drug Abuse injury topic page.

Definition: The misuse and abuse of prescription medications involves obtaining and taking these drugs without a prescription and for a nonmedical purpose.  Teens and young adults are at risk of abusing prescription medications because they are widely available, free or inexpensive, and falsely believed to be safer than illicit drugs.

Magnitude of the Problem: Prescription drug use increased sharply from 1997 to 2007, and the abuse of these drugs is now the U.S.’s fastest growing drug problem (Executive Office of the President, Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, 2011).

  • The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance questionnaire found that almost 21% of high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a prescription at least once in their lifetime.
  • According to the Archives of Internal Medicine (2011;171(11):1034-1036),more than three-quarters of youth and young adults ages 18–25 received painkillers only from nonmedical sources compared with 52% of those older than age 50.
  • More teens abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s Prescription Drugs webpage).

Prevention: Strategies to reduce prescription medication abuse among youth include:

  • Educating parents and caregivers about the importance of keeping prescription medications locked up;
  • Encouraging parents and caregivers to talk with teens about the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications;
  • Educating the public about how to properly dispose of old or unneeded medications;
  • Training health care providers to screen patients for past or current substance use and to monitor patients’ use of prescribed medications; and
  • Understanding the role of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in reducing prescription medication misuse/abuse and working with PDMPs to increase their effectiveness.

Trends in Drug Poisoning Deaths Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States, 2006–2015

Dr. Bina Ali of the Children’s Safety Network Economics and Data Analysis Resource Center is the lead author in a new study published in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. “Trends in Drug Poisoning Deaths Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States, 2006–2015” found that the nationwide opioid epidemic has led to an increase in the death rate for young people from overdoses.

Resource Type: 
CSN Publications

New CSN Resources on the Costs of Childhood Injuries

Release Date: 
2017-11-28 00:00:00

In 2015, injuries caused 13,363 deaths in U.S. children and adolescents aged 0-19. In addition, injuries were responsible for 200,225 hospitalizations and almost 7.7 million emergency department (ED) visits in this population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], WISQARS, 2017). One important way to understand the burden of childhood injuries is by looking at the costs of those injuries.

The Medical Costs of Childhood Injuries: Deaths

In 2015, the total medical costs of injury-related deaths of children age 19 and younger was $153.2 million. This infographic breaks out the medical cost of child deaths by injury topic.

Download a PDF of the infographic for printing

This is part of a series on the costs of childhood injuries.

Additional infographics on the medical costs of childhood injuries:

Resource Type: 
CSN Infographic

Opioid Medication: A Risk for Children and Teens

Each year, opioid medication poisoning causes more than 300 deaths in children and teens. (1) This infographic covers poison control center calls about children and teens exposed to opioid medications.

Download a print version of the infographic

Resource Type: 
CSN Infographic

Monitoring the Future 2016 Survey Results | NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the results from the 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The MTF survey is administered to 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students and focuses on drug use.

The results from the 2016 MTF survey are promising, showing a long-term decline in teen use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and many other illicit substances. Prescription drug misuse has also declined. 

Dec 19 2016

Medication Abuse Prevention: 2016 Resource Guide

The amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. increased nearly four times from 1999 to 2010 (CDC), yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. (Chang, H., American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2014). Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are the most commonly abused substances after marijuana and alcohol for Americans over the age of 13 (National Institute on Drug Abuse). In 2013, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that nearly 18 percent of U.S.

Resource Type: 
CSN Resource Guide


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