Though prescription drug abuse is not a new problem, it is one that deserves renewed attention. In 2010, 12 million Americans reported using prescription drugs non-medically. Among the most abused painkillers, Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Xanax, are so powerful that even when those with injury or disability are prescribed medically, a staggering number of them become addicted. It goes without saying that prescription drugs can be indispensable allies to those who really need it, but they also pose serious health risks such as lifetime addiction and death.
- Overdoses from prescription painkillers — including oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone (Vicodin) — killed 15,000 people last year. That’s more than 40 per day.
- In fact, painkillers now cause more deaths in America than cocaine and heroin combined. And if the numbers keep rising, they’ll soon outpace car crashes as the nation’s leading cause of fatal injury.
- In 2010, 1 in 20 people in the United States (age 12 or older) reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons in the past year.
- Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
- Nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs.