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

se it wasn't made for them. What would be safe for one individual could be lethal to another individual."

Three types of prescription drugs are being abused most often, officials say:

  • Painkillers. Drugs such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine are often prescribed to relieve pain in people who have suffered trauma or illness or have undergone surgery.
  • Sedatives. Valium, Librium and Xanax are among the medications often prescribed to treat anxiety or sleep disorders.
  • Stimulants. Drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine are prescribed as weight-loss aides or to treat narcolepsy or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

"The painkillers are the number one in terms of the prescription drugs that are abused," Compton said.

People who are abusing prescription drugs most often get them free from a friend or relative who obtained the drugs legitimately to treat a condition. The drug abusers help themselves to the leftovers, said Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

"There's a lot of drug swapping or sharing occurring," Catizone said. About 56.5 percent of people who used illicit prescription drugs obtained them this way, according to the national survey.

Other abusers will convince their doctor to write prescriptions they don't need, Catizone said. About one-fifth of prescription drug abusers took this tack in obtaining their drugs, the survey found.

Still other abusers obtain prescription drugs from Internet pharmacy sites. Though it's currently a limited phenomenon, Catizone acknowledged that it has the potential to become a bigger problem.

"We've seen the Internet move from an entrepreneurial, Amazon.com-type of marketplace to a primary area for drug abuse," he said. "It's easier to obtain prescription drugs online than it is to buy crack or heroin on the street."

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