While the use of many street drugs is on a slight decline in the US, abuse of prescription drugs is growing. In 2007, 2.5 million Americans abused prescription drugs for the first time, compared to 2.1 million who used marijuana for the first time.

Among teens, prescription drugs are the most commonly used drugs next to marijuana, and almost half of the teens abusing prescription drugs are taking painkillers.

Why are so many young people turning to prescription drugs to get high?

By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that taking prescription drugs is much safer than using illegal street drugs.

What is not known by most of these young people is the risk they are taking by consuming these highly potent and mind-altering drugs. Long-term use of painkillers can lead to dependence, even for people who are prescribed them to relieve a medical condition but eventually fall into the trap of abuse and addiction.

In some cases, the dangers of painkillers don’t surface until it is too late. In 2007, for example, abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people. The drug was found to be thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin.


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  2. “Older Americans fight drug abuse,” 3 Jul 2008, International Herald Tribune
  3. “Methadone rises as a painkiller with big risks,” 17 Aug 2008, New York Times
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  6. 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  7. “Depressants,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information
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  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Report, “Prescription Drugs, Abuse and Addiction 2001”
  14. “Some Commonly Prescribed Medications: Use and Consequences,” National Institute on Drug Abuse
  15. National Institute of Justice, Drug and Alcohol Use and Related Matters Among Arrestees, 2003
  16. U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Drug Facts: OxyContin,” and “Prescription Drug Facts & Figures
  17. “New Report Reveals More Than 1000 People Died in Illegal Fentanyl Epidemic of 2005-2007,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  18. “Teen OTC & Prescription Drug Abuse,”