Western States Have Highest Rx Drug Misuse Rates

Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington are among the 10 states with the highest rates of non-medical use of prescription pain reliever, according to a newly released SAMHSA report.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released "The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Nonmedical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers: 2010-2011" on Jan. 8. The report is based on data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is a scientific annual survey of approximately 67,500 people ages 12 and older throughout the country. This NSDUH report is available at http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k12/NSDUH115/sr115-nonmedical-use-pain-relievers.htm.

It shows prescription drug misuse is second only to marijuana as the nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem, with approximately 22 million people nationwide starting non-medical pain reliever use since 2002. With the 2010 and 2011 data combined, rates of past year misuse ranged from 3.6 percent in Iowa to 6.4 percent in Oregon.

"Addressing prescription drug misuse remains a top public health priority, as we’ve seen inconsistent progress in addressing the issue across the states," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "Data from this report helps up better understand geographic variations in use, and should help with the development of more targeted and effective prevention and treatment programs. The key is educating the public on the serious health risks involved, and ensuring that we are providing the necessary treatment to those who need it."

"Prescription drug abuse is a major problem throughout our nation," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. "These data reaffirm how vital it is for the public health and public safety communities to work together to reduce the toll prescription drug abuse inflicts on our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. As we continue to focus on this challenge at the federal level, we hope people will also endeavor to learn more about the harms associated with prescription drug abuse and take time to empty medicine cabinets of any excess, unneeded, or expired prescription medications."

Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of non-medical use of prescription pain relievers were in the West: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Four of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the Midwest: Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Four others were in the South: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina.

Encouragingly, prescription drug misuse has dropped in 10 states from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011, according to SAMHSA. Its release said the 10 are Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

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