Nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers.
In 2010, 1 in 20 people in the US (age 12 or older) reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the past year.
Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
Deaths from prescription painkillers* have reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now greater than those of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. A big part of the problem is nonmedical use of prescription painkillers: using drugs without a prescription, or using drugs just for the “high” they cause.
Although most of these pills were prescribed for a medical purpose, many ended up in the hands of people who misused or abused them.
Improving the way prescription painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people who misuse, abuse or overdose from these powerful drugs, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment.
* “Prescription painkillers” refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.