Prescription Drug Abuse

A boy standing by a sink, opening a bottle of pills.

Prescription drug abuse has quickly become a major health epidemic in the United States.

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) worked with a range of partners and experts to identify promising policies and approaches to reducing prescription drug abuse in America.
This report evaluates states on 10 key approaches to combat prescription drug abuse, based on input and review from public health, medical and law enforcement experts, and using indicators. The report also provides a review of national policy issues and recommendations.

"Increases in substance abuse treatment admissions, emergency department visits, and, most disturbingly, overdose deaths attributable to prescription drug abuse place enormous burdens upon communities across the country."

— R.Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Key Findings

  • Appalachia and Southwest have the highest overdose death rates.

  • While nearly every state (49) has a prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to help identify “doctor shoppers,” problem prescribers, and individuals in need of treatment, these programs vary dramatically in funding, use, and capability.

  • Nearly half of states (24 and Washington, D.C.) are participating in Medicaid Expansion, which helps expand coverage of substance abuse services and treatment.

  • Key aspects of addressing prescription drug abuse as a public health problem include: Improving prescription drug monitoring programs; ensuring access to substance abuse treatment; ensuring responsible prescribing practices; and expanding public education and building community partnerships.

This report features important information to the broad and diverse groups involved in this issue; encourages greater transparency and accountability; and outlines promising recommendations to ensure the system addresses this critical public health concern.

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6.1 M

Americans abuse or misuse prescription drugs

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