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Hooked: Statistics on Prescription Narcotic Use/Abuse

America is “hooked.” Not on soda pop. Not on daytime TV. Not even on phonics. Americans are starting to use prescription narcotics at increased rates, up 400% over the last 10 years. These drugs include painkillers, stimulants, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.

Hook, Line, and a Sinking America

In the U.S., 2,500 youth ages 12 to 17 abuse a prescription pain medicine for the first time. Prescription drug use is more prevalent in the U.S. than other countries. In America, more Oxycodonethan 15 million people abuse prescription drugs each year, which is more than all other drugs combined. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2015, more than 2.6 million Americans abused prescription drugs for the first time.

According to a 2007 survey, 3.3% of 12- to 17-year olds used or abused a prescription drug during the past 30 days. Of those aged 18- to 25-year old, 6% reported using a prescription drug in the past month. Prescription drug abuse also caused a large percentage of deaths in America, based on 2005 statistics. Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths, 38% were related to opioid painkillers.

Teenage Wasteland

America is becoming a teenage wasteland, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2005, 4,4 million teens in the U.S. admitted to using prescription opioid painkillers. In addition, 2.3 million teens reported that they took a prescription stimulant, such as Adderall or Ritalin. Another 2.2 million youth admitted to abusing over-the-counter cough syrup, many trying it as young as 13 years of age.

In a U.S survey, almost 50% of teens reported that they thought prescription drugs were safer than illegal street drugs. Around 65% of teens surveyed said that they found prescription drugs in their families’ home medicine cabinets. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens who abuse prescription drugs were twice as likely to drink alcohol, and were five times more likely to smoke marijuana. In addition, teens who start taking prescription drugs are 20 times more likely to turn to heroin, cocaine, and Ecstasy.

Dying to Be High

dual diagnosis treatmentAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids, depressants, and antidepressants are responsible for 45% of all overdose deaths. Prescription stimulants and cocaine account for 39% of all overdose deaths in the U.S. Also, in America, the most overdose deaths occur in inner cities in Black neighborhoods, but overdose deaths are on the rise in White rural communities. Of the 1.4 million drug-related hospital ER admissions in 2005, almost 600,000 were associated with prescription narcotics.

In 2007, the powerful prescription narcotic fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. This drug is 50 times more powerful than heroin, and 100 times more deadly. People are stealing it from cancer patients, pharmacies, and hospitals, and chewing the gel lining that is supposed to be time-released when applied to the skin.

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Narcotics

The number one most commonly abused prescription narcotic is the opioid drugs, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and hydromorphone. These drugs are usually given after a major injury or surgery, but are also prescribed for chronic pain. Another commonly abused prescription drug class is the central nervous system depressants, which are called tranquilizers or sedatives (Xanax, Valium, Seconal, and Neurontin). When taken with alcohol, CNS depressants can lead to overdose deaths due to respiratory depression.

In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, hydrocodone (Vicodin) was the top prescription drug abused among high schoolers. This study found that it represented 8% of all drugs used, but stimulants rated at 6.5%. Teens have access to stimulants, because they are often given in this age group for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These drugs, when abused, produced a high, but they also lead to rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and major anxiety.

Pacific Bay Recovery offers first rate treatment for prescription drug abuse at a top notch facility in San Diego. Success rates are impressive, with long term success being over 80%! Call us today for your best option for prescription drug rehab in Southern California.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Therapeutic drug use. Retrieved from:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017). Drug-related hospital emergency room visits. Retrieved from:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017). Nationwide trends. Retrieved from:

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