When talking about drug addiction we generally think of illegal substances cooked up in improvised labs, obtained through dealers in dark alleyways.
Many people are not aware that addictive substances are supplied by local pharmacies, which in turn are supplied by a massive drugs industry.
Welcome to the world of prescription medicine addiction.
It was recently reported in the USA that addiction to prescription medicine is the second most common type of chemical dependency in the country, behind only marijuana dependence.
According to a recent article in Digital Journal, an American magazine: “The abuse of prescription drugs has risen by 33% since 2008”.
The most common form of addiction comes from opiate-based painkillers such as Vicodin, Xanax and Valium which are based on Benzodiazepine.
This form of addiction has become a serious problem among American teenagers. “More teens die from prescription drug overdoses than from heroin and cocaine combined”, says Johnny Patout, CEO of a teen rehab center in the US: “Prescription drugs are just too easy for teens to access”.
About 60% of American teenagers get these drugs from family members or through the ever rising number of “pill parties”, where they consume potentially lethal mixes of prescription pills.
A 2013 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the US describes how teenagers get their hands on prescription drugs: 53% of teens acquire painkillers from friends and family while 23% get them directly from doctors.
The UK is no stranger to this situation. Around 1 Million Britons are addicted to prescription and over the counter painkillers. According to a report published by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2013, this number exceeds that of people addicted to illicit drugs.
Castle Craig Hospital treats addiction to prescription drugs, with Codeine and Fentanyl being the most frequently abused painkillers. There is little that makes addiction to prescription drugs different from other drug addictions, beyond the fact that the abused painkillers can be obtained legally. And, like many addictive substances, they serve as gateways to other drugs.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | November 21, 2019