Prescription drug abuse is just behind marijuana as the United States’ most widespread drug issue, with 22 million people beginning use of non-medical pain alleviating drugs since 2002, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report points out several differences by state, in addition to data from 2010 and 2011 displaying rates of past year abuse among people 12 years of age or older, which spanned from 3.6 percent in Iowa to 6.4 percent in Oregon.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde says:

“Addressing prescription drug misuse remains a top public health priority, as we’ve seen inconsistent progress in addressing the issue across the states. Data from this report helps up better understand geographic variations in use and should help with the development of more targeted and effective prevention and treatment programs. 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.”

Out of the 10 states with the highest levels of non-medical prescription pain pill use, seven were in the West (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona).

Out of the 10 states showing the lowest levels, four of them were located in the Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois), and four were in the South (North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Maryland).

The authors examined the relationship between combined 2010 and 2011 data with combined 2009 and 2010 data. The results showed a drop in prescription drug abuse among people 12 years old or more in the following 10 states:
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • West Virginia
  • Rhode Island
  • Ohio
  • New York
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • SAMHSA already has several programs geared towards prescription drug abuse, such as its Prevention of Prescription Abuse in the Workplace contract that gives technical help to aid military and civilian workplaces across the nation to decrease prescription drug abuse issues.

    This newest report originated with the use of data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH is administered once a year, analyzing about 67,500 people around the United States who are 12 years of age or older.

    In November 2012, doctors from the University of Nebraska Medical Center referred to prescription drug addiction as an epidemic. They believe this is because doctors are now treating pain in a different way.

    Written by Kelly Fitzgerald