What Populations Are Affected By Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse?

Men and Women

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription psychiatric drugs was 2.6% in men and 2.3% in women. Data from a 2012 Drug Abuse Warning Network report revealed the proportion of emergency department visits involving the nonmedical use of prescribed drugs differed by gender: for youth aged between 15 and 17, the difference between girls and boys was significant; 45 percent and 31 percent respectively.

Prescription drug misuse and abuse can harm those from all backgrounds, but some demographics are more susceptible than others. The following are drug rehab centers dedicated to helping those suffering from substance abuse.

Youth and Young Adults

Several young individuals believe that prescription drugs are safer than illicit substances because they’re legal with a prescription by a physician, given by a pharmacist, and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. However, a 2013 Monitoring the Future study found prescription drugs to be the second-most abused category of drugs.

NSDUH data tracks prescription drug misuse or abuse among youth:

  • In 2014, the rate of past year nonmedical painkiller use among youth aged 12 to 17 was 6.2%. For young adults ages 18 to 25, the rate was 11.8%.
  • In 2014, youths aged 12 to 17, or young adults aged 18 to 25, were more likely to misuse prescription drugs in the past year than adults aged 26 or older.
  • The percentage of current misusers of prescription drugs significantly increased for those aged 12-17 from 2.2% in 2013 to 2.6% in 2014.
  • On an average day during the past year, an average of 5,784 adolescents used prescription pain relievers non-medically for the first time.

A 2013 SAMHSA study shows that emergency department visits for drug misuse or abuse by youth aged 12 to 17 on a typical day include:

  • 74 for prescription or nonprescription painkillers
  • 32 for antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • 31 for benzodiazepines
  • 26 for narcotic pain relievers
  • 11 for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications

Older Adults (Age 50 and Older)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found in 2014 that prescription drug misuse and abuse is growing among individuals in their 50s.

Older adults commonly experience more complications with relatively less amount of medications due to increased medication sensitivity, and slower metabolism and elimination from the body. Older adults are at a higher risk for drug misuse than the general populace due to their increased reports of pain, sleep disorders such as insomnia, and anxiety. They also may develop cognitive declination, which may result in misuse of their medications.

  • The combination of alcohol and medication misuse has been estimated to affect up to 19% of older Americans.
  • Approximately 25% of older adults use prescription psychoactive medications that have a potential to be misused and abused.
  • Older adults are more likely to take prescribed psychoactive medications for longer periods of time than younger adults.