The Science - Prescriptions

Summary of the Science

Easy Access to Prescription Drugs

70% of people who abuse prescription drugs got them from a friend or relative (NSDUH, 2009-2010). Prescriptions for these commonly abused medications have increased drastically in recent years. Since 1999, the amount of opioid painkiller prescribed in the US increased by 300%, mirroring the increase in overdose deaths (CDC, Vital Signs, Nov. 4, 2011).


Drug overdose death rates in the US have more than tripled since 1990 and are increasingly due to prescription drugs (CDC, Vital Signs, Nov. 4, 2011). The health and societal impact goes beyond overdoses: for every 1 death from prescription drug overdose, there are 10 treatment admissions for abuse, 32 emergency department visits for abuse or misuse, 130 people who abuse or are dependent, and 825 nonmedical users (CDC, Policy Impact, Nov. 2012).

Prescription Drug Abuse among Youth

Nationally, about 1 in 4 teens have misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, representing a 33% increase since 2008 (Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2013).

What does use look like in Texas?
  • 19% of middle and high school students have prescriptions drugs that weren’t prescribed to them. 7% have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the last month.
  • Codeine cough syrup is the most commonly abused prescription drug among youth.
  • 22% of Texas college students have used prescription drugs to get high.