On Wednesday, the FDA proposed guidelines for drug makers for testing and evaluating new formulations of these drugs that make them harder to abuse by making them more difficult to tamper with so that abusers can "get high."
In the SAMHSA report, the abuse of narcotic pain relievers varied state to state; pooled data from 2010 and 2011 found that rates of abuse for those aged 12 or older ranged from 3.6 percent in Iowa to 6.4 percent in Oregon.
Seven of the states with the highest rates of narcotic painkiller abuse were in the West -- Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.
Four of the states with the lowest rates were in the Midwest -- Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota -- and four were in the South -- Florida, Georgia, Maryland and North Carolina, according to the report.
Abuse of these drugs decreased in Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
The report is based on data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is a survey of approximately 67,500 people across the United States.
"The public health community has begun to recognize the scope of the epidemic," said Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Alexander noted that the problem is partially the result of trying to correct another problem, namely, the under-use of narcotic painkillers to manage pain in those who need it.
"One of the factors that has contributed to the epidemic are well-intentioned efforts to try to improve the identification and treatment of patients with pain," he said.
Another factor is the heavy marketing of narcotic painkillers by drug makers, Alexander said. In addition, doctors may be dispensing more pills in a prescrip
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