Misuse of Prescription Drugs
The misuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem in the United States. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 54 million people (more than 20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription medications for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime.
Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high). The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug misuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include ease of access.
Prescription drug misuse can have serious medical consequences. Increases in prescription drug misuse over the last 15 years are reflected in increased emergency room visits, overdose deaths associated with prescription drugs, and treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders, the most severe form of which is addiction.