Prescription Drug Misuse Remains a Top Public Health Concern

Prescription drug misuse is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illicit drug problem, with approximately 22 million persons nationwide initiating nonmedical pain reliever use since 2002, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report also shows variations in use by state, with combined 2010 and 2011 data indicating that rates of past year misuse among those aged 12 or older ranged from 3.6 percent in Iowa to 6.4 percent in Oregon.

“Addressing prescription drug misuse remains a top public health priority, as we’ve seen inconsistent progress in addressing the issue across the states,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “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.”

 Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers were in the West (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington). Four of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota), and four were in the South (Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina).

A comparison of the combined 2009 and 2010 data with combined 2010 and 2011 data revealed a decrease in prescription drug misuse among those aged 12 or older in 10 states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia). None of the states saw an increase.

The report The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Nonmedical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers: 2010-2011, is based on data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The NSDUH report is available at:

Detailed tables and maps are available at:

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – January 8, 2013

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