Drug overdoses are a major cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 100 Americans died from overdose every day in 2010.[i] Prescription drugs were involved in at least half of the more than 38,300 overdose deaths that year, and opioid pain relievers were involved in over 16,600.[ii] Drug overdose deaths outnumber deaths from gunshot wounds or motor vehicle crashes.
To address this challenge, in 2010, the Obama Administration released Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis. A national framework for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse, the plan supports the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts.
As a result of comprehensive action, the abuse of prescription drugs is beginning to decline for the first time in a decade. According to recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of Americans 12 and older that had used a prescription drug non-medically in the past month declined from 7.0 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011, a 12 percent decrease compared to 2010. This decline was driven primarily by a decrease in non-medical use among young adults (18-25 years of age).