Abuse of Prescription (Rx) Drugs Affects Young Adults Most

Young adults (age 18 to 25) are the biggest abusers of prescription (Rx) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs. They do it for all kinds of reasons, including to get high, or because they think Rx stimulants will help them study better. But Rx abuse is dangerous: In 2010, almost 3,000 young adults died from prescription drug (mainly opioid) overdoses—more than died from overdoses of any other drug, including heroin and cocaine combined—and many more needed emergency treatment.

Top Graph: The nonmedical use of prescription drugs is highest among young adults. Past year nonmedical use of prescription drugs is shown on a bar chart by age group. Seven percent of 12- to 17- year-olds, 13 percent of 18- to 25- year-olds, and 4 percent of persons age 26 or older, used prescription drugs nonmedically in the past year.

Middle Graph: Three thousand young adults died from Rx drug overdose in 2010–a 250% increase from 1999,  that’s 8 persons per day.  A line graph shows prescription-drug-related overdose deaths increasing among persons ages 18- to 25- years-old from 833 deaths in 1999 to 2,908 deaths in 2010.

Bottom Figure: Among young adults, for every death due to Rx drug overdose, there were 17 treatment admissions and 66 emergency room visits.