Why is prescription drug abuse increasingly common?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), three factors have fueled prescription drug abuse:
  • Misperceptions about safety: People assume drugs that are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and prescribed by doctors are safe to take under any circumstance, but these medications act on the same brain systems affected by illegal drugs and have a similar potential for abuse.
  • More widespread availability: Prescriptions for the most commonly abused prescription drugs have increased by six to nine times since the early 2000s.
  • Varied motivations: Nonmedical use of prescription drugs stems from different underlying reasons—to ease pain or anxiety, to counter sleep problems, to sharpen thinking, or to get high.

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