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NIDA. (2001, April 10). NIDA and Partners Announce National Initiative on Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse. Retrieved from

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April 10, 2001

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and several national organizations today announced a public health initiative to raise awareness about recent trends in the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in the United States. The initiative seeks to inform the public, physicians, pharmacists, and others about the misuse and abuse of medications and promote additional research on the subject.

"While prescription drugs can relieve a variety of medical problems and improve the lives of millions of Americans, they can be dangerous, addicting - and even deadly - when used non-medically," said NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner. "An estimated nine million people aged 12 or over reported using sedatives, stimulants, tranquilizers or opioids for non-medical reasons in 1999. Of those nine million, four million reported current, or past month, use."

Joining with NIDA are AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Pharmaceutical Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Council on Patient Information and Education, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

At a news conference in Washington, DC, Dr. Leshner said, " The reports of misuse of prescription drugs in some segments of the population - older adults, adolescents, and women - are particularly worrisome."

The misuse of prescribed medications may be the most common form of drug abuse among the elderly. New prescription drug abuse has dramatically increased among young people between 12-25 years old and in a 1999 survey, 12-14 year olds named psychotherapeutics, such as painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants, as some of their more frequently used drugs. Overall, men and women use prescription drugs non-medically in equal numbers. However, some studies indicate that women may be more likely to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, particularly narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs. Among 12-17 year olds, young women are more likely than young men to use psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically.

Dr. Leshner says doctors, pharmacists, and patients can all play a role in preventing misuse of medications. Doctors should ensure that patients understand how to use prescribed medications and should also be alert to signs of patient drug abuse. Pharmacists can help by clearly instructing people on how to take medication and explaining side effects and potential drug interactions. They can also check for false or forged prescriptions. Patients should make sure they know how to use their medication, and should always talk to their doctor or pharmacist before increasing, decreasing, or stopping any medication.

"Attention must now be paid to the long neglected area of prescription drug abuse," said Joseph H. Autry III, M.D., acting administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "There is no typical abuser. Medical personnel must use every opportunity to screen and educate all of their patients."

As part of this effort, NIDA and its partners are releasing a research report that highlights the health consequences of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

In addition to the research report, NIDA is distributing 400,000 postcards with messages about the dangers of prescription drugs. The cards are available in restaurants, book stores, clubs, record stores, coffee shops, gyms, and other stores in several major cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Miami, and Mesa, Arizona, the largest retirement community in the United States. The cards are also being given out at college campus locations nationwide.