SAMHSA annual report indicates decline in prescription drug abuse among young adults

Manufacturers, distributors and healthcare providers unite to address ongoing abuse

In the battle lines over the widespread problem of prescription drug abuse, there is some good news to report: the just-released National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows that in the 18-25 age category, prescription drug abuse has fell by 14% in 2011, amounting to 1.7 million. However, that form of abuse remained unchanged both in younger (12-17 years old) and older (26 and up). Across all age categories, the NSDUH finds that there are 6.1 million abusers of “psychotherapeutic drugs, including 4.5 million users of pain relievers, 1.8 million users of tranquilizers, 970,000 users of stimulants, and 231,000 users of sedatives.”

The scope of the problem has been recognized for years, and has grown even as abuse of illicit drugs like cocaine has fallen. The entire healthcare industry, from manufacturers to healthcare providers and pharmacies, is engaged. This week (Sept. 23-29) will see a variety of outreach efforts, especially those using social media, sponsored by The Medicine Abuse Project, an activity of The Partnership at DrugFree.Org, and culminating in a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Sept. 29. Lead sponsors are Abbott, Cardinal Health Foundation, CVS Caremark, Mallinckrodt, and PhRMA. DEA is coordinating part of the activity, which will occur in many local and regional settings nationwide.

Besides outlining the size of the drug-abuse problem, the NSDUH highlights the gap between drug abusers seeking treatment, and those actually receiving it: 2.3 million out of 21.6 million, or 10.8% of those in need.