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In U.S., Prescription Drug Abuse Is Growing
Date:12/29/2009

Medicine cabinets have replaced the street as easy source of medications, experts say

TUESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The overdose death of pop star Michael Jackson in 2009 drew new attention to the abuse of prescription drugs in the United States.

And with that attention has come acknowledgment that it's become a widespread phenomenon.

One of every five teenagers and adults -- about 50 million Americans -- have used prescription drugs for a non-medical purpose at some point in their lives, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

And prescription drug abuse appears to be growing among young adults. The national survey, conducted in 2007, found that abuse of prescription pain relievers by young adults rose 12 percent between 2006 and 2007, even as their use of street drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine decreased.

Experts believe that prescription drug abuse is on the rise in part because access to these medications has become easy and routine. The number of prescriptions filled in the United States increased 72 percent between 1997 and 2007, though the population grew just 11 percent in that decade, according to research by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Some of it we think relates to the general availability of prescription drugs in medicine cabinets and to the public," said Dr. Wilson Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. "As these medications are in medicine cabinets in many more houses across the country, that is a key part in this."

People also appear to feel more comfortable taking prescription drugs because they mistakenly believe they will be safer than street drugs, Compton added.

"We have people who tell us that, and that would be a very dangerous assumption," Compton said. "Somebody can overdose on a prescription drug becau
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