Is the use of prescription painkillers on the rise?

The supply of prescription painkillers is larger than ever. In fact, the quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices was four times larger in 2010 than in 1999. Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.

Even though most of these pills were originally prescribed for a medical purpose, many ended up in the hands of people who misused or abused them. Improving the way prescription painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people who misuse, abuse and overdose from them, while ensuring that patients have access to safe, effective treatment.

Many states report problems with "pill mills" where doctors prescribe large quantities of painkillers to people who don’t need them medically. Some people also obtain prescriptions from multiple prescribers by "doctor shopping."

Some states have a bigger problem with prescription painkillers than others.

  • Prescription painkiller sales per person were more than 3 times higher in Florida, which has the highest rate, than in Illinois, which has the lowest.
  • In 2008/2009, non-medical use of painkillers in the past year ranged from 1 in 12 people (age 12 or older) in Oklahoma to 1 in 30 in Nebraska.
  • States with higher sales per person and more nonmedical use of prescription painkillers tend to have more deaths from drug overdoses.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.