Prescription Drug Abuse News

News about prescription drug abuse. News sources about the abuse of prescription drugs is collected from public sources such as news articles, government reports, drug rehabilitation programs, and other public health programs.

See key security threats and facts at our main prescription drug abuse page.

841 people in Clark County (which includes the city of Las Vegas) died in 2012 from accidentally overdosing on drugs. Most of the deaths involved prescription drugs.

As previously mentioned, there is a direct link between the rise in prescription drug abuse and a rise in heroin abuse across the United States, and the link is demonstrated again in Nevada. In 2006, there were 266 people who entered drug rehab centers for treatment regarding addictions to prescription drugs. In 2012, the number of patients increased to 616.

(All statistics on heroin addiction.)

Heroin treatment programs also saw an increase in admissions. In 2006, a total of 607 people sought treatment for heroin addiction in Nevada. In 2012, the number increased to 931.

Heroin use increases due to its cheaper price on the black market when compared to prescription drugs. One pill of Vicodin can cost $5, with an addict needing up to 10 pills a day. A bag of heroin can cost $10, with two to three hits lasting the entire day, thus saving the user $20 to $30 when switching to heroin.

(How much does heroin cost around the world?)

Source:  Jackie Valley, “Lawmen focus on biggest drug problem: overdoses of prescribed meds,” Las Vegas Sun, December 17, 2013.

36 percent of high school seniors in the United States stated that they smoked marijuana in 2013. Over 12 percent of eight graders also smoked marijuana during the year.

Nearly 60 percent of seniors stated that they did not view marijuana use as harmful, compared to 55 percent in 2012.

According to an annual survey by Monitoring the Future, other forms of drugs, alcohol and tobacco l use by high school students declined in 2013. 40 percent of seniors stated that they drank alcohol during the year, down from 53 percent in 1997. Les than 10 percent of seniors smoked cigarettes, the first time the number has ever dropped below 10 percent. Prescription drug abuse of the painkiller Vicodin is down by half from the number of student who were abusing it, and cocaine and heroin use by all students was at all time lows in 2013.

(How much does marijuana cost?)

Source:  Anahd O’Connor, “Increasing Marijuana Use in High School Is Reported,” New York Times, Well Blog, December 18, 2013.

Two-thirds of college students in the United States have been offered the prescription drug Adderall by the time they are seniors, according to the Journal of American College Health. 31 percent have taken the drug.

74 percent of college students who use Adderall without a prescription are able to get the drugs from a friend. However, as the student goes through the college years, the student becomes more likely to get a prescription. The rate of using the drug with a prescription rises from 3.1 percent in their freshman year to 8.1 percent their senior year.

(More prescription drug abuse statistics and information.)

Students are increasingly able to find ways to get Adderall prescribed to them. In one experiment, 93 percent of students were able to fill out a self-reported checklist and received a positive diagnosis for ADHD, of which Adderall is prescribed for. Other studies showed that students could easily find out how to get diagnosed with ADHD by searching online for 5 minutes.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 90 percent of college students who use Adderall for non-medical reasons also binge drink.

The rate of Adderall abuse has started to go to the high school level as well. In 2009, there were 5.4 percent of high school seniors across the United States who reported using Adderall without a prescription. In 2012, the rate of Adderall abuse increased to 7.6 percent.

Source:  Brandy Zadrozny, “7 Things You Need to Know About Adderall,” Daily Beast, December 2, 2013.


In a study conducted by Quest Diagnostics, less than 2 percent of workers in the United States tested positive for marijuana use through workplace drug testing. Back in 2002, just under 3 percent tested positive for marijuana.

The fall in workers testing positive stands in contrast to the numbers of Americans who use marijuana. According to reports by public health programs, 7.3 percent of Americans admitted to smoking marijuana within the previous month, an increase from the 5.8 percent in 2007.

The use of prescription drugs by US workers increased dramatically in recent years, according to the study. The use of Adderall and other types of amphetamines doubled between 2002 and 2012. Since 2005, the use of Vicodin by workers rose by 172 percent, and OxyContin use increased by 72 percent.

(See the price of marijuana around the world.)

Source:  Roberto A. Ferdman, “Americans are smoking more weed, but testing positive less often,” Quartz, November 18, 2013.

Source:  Charlotte Alter, “Study: Fewer Workers Using Cocaine and Marijuana, But Prescription Drug Use Is Up,” Time, November 18, 2013.

In the Midwest region of the United States, the Sinaloa drug cartel is offering heroin at a cheaper rate the prescription pain killers.

According to a report by Bloomberg, users who are addicted to painkillers turn to heroin due to the costs. One pills of Vicodin sold on the black market costs around $5 to $6. As a user becomes more addicted to the pill, more pills are necessary to satisfy the craving. One user stated that she was taking up to 10 Vicodin pills a day for a cost of $50 per day.

(More prices of heroin for sale around the world.)

The Sinaloa cartel, on the other hand, was offering one-tenth of a gram for $10. Due to the strength of the heroin, two to three hits of heroin could last the same user for the entire day, cutting down on the costs.  The Sinaloa cartel’s heroin is 94 percent pure, according to security services, and is a point of pride for the cartel.

Up to 50 metric tons of heroin is produced in Mexico each year. Nearly half of all heroin abused in the United States is produced in Mexico, with the remaining heroin being smuggled in from South America and Asia.

(All heroin addiction facts and statistics here.)

Source:  Andrew Martin, “Cartel Hits Midwest With Heroin Killing Chicago Youth,” Bloomberg, November 12, 2013.

Federal data from the United States showed that nearly 80 percent of people who used heroin in 2011 also previously abused prescription painkillers in 2011.

The rise in prescription drug abuse in the United States has lead to a rise in the number of people using heroin. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people using heroin in the United States increased from 373,000 to 669,000.

Health experts state that when people become addicted to painkillers, the will turn to the black market to find pills to satisfy their addiction. If they can’t find pills, then they will turn to heroin. (Latest heroin addiction statistics.)

Both heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone are derived from opium. They both share a similar molecule that attaches to the brain’s receptor, which gives the user a positive feeling when the drug is taken, and a negative feeling when it is not taken. Thus, both painkillers and heroin are extremely addictive to users and are interchangeable when addicted.

Source:  “With Rise Of Painkiller Abuse, A Closer Look At Heroin,” NPR, November 2, 2013.

Research conducted by the University of Michigan found that one in 10 young teenagers who visited the emergency room in Michigan abused prescription pain killers in 2012.

10.4 percent of the 2,100 teens who entered the emergency room at the University of Michigan Medical Center abused a prescription drug.

8.7 percent abused prescription opioid such as Oxycontin, methadone or hydrocodone. 85 percent of these teens did not have a prescription for the painkiller.

5.4 percent of teens abused sedatives such as Ativan, Xanax or Valium. 88 percent of these teens did not have a prescription for the sedative.

In August, the medical journal The Lancet stated that painkiller addictions in the United States is the worst drug epidemic in the country’s history.

Source:  Marisa Taylor, “Study: 10 percent of teens in the ER abuse prescription drugs,” Al Jazeera America, October 30, 2013.

Public health programs and agencies in Canada have estimated that there have been 3,757 deaths from overdoses on opioids in Ontario, Canada between 2002 to 2011.

(More overdose statistics from prescription drug abuse.)

Between 2009 and 2011,  oxycodone was linked to 491 overdose deaths and fentanyl was lined to 253 deaths.

A drug dealer in Ottawa stated in a media interview that he sells patches of fentanyl for $80 to $240 for a single “one hundred” patch on the black market.

(How much does heroin cost on the black market?)

Source:  “Drug dealer explains lure and risk of fentanyl abuse,” CBC News, October 29, 2013.

According to a report by Noisey, the price of prescription strength cough syrup sold on the black market varies across the United States. On average, pints of the cough syrup can cost between $250 to $400. In Houston, a pint can sell for up to $1,000, and in Atlanta pints have been reportedly sold for $1,200.

On Instagram, users have been selling bottles of Actavis Promethazine Cough Syrup with Codeine on their accounts. One dealer was quoted as offering a pint of Actavis for $350, and 2 pints for $600.

(Additional statistics about prescription drug abuse.)

The cough syrup is mixed with Sprite and Jolly Rancher candy in a cup to create a purple liquid. The drug, commonly known as Lean, Sizzurp, Drank, and other names, is often referenced to by rappers in their music, which has contributed to their popularity. In a recent survey of high school seniors, 5.5 percent of respondents said that they used the drug.

(More prices of illegal drugs and other black market prices.)

Source: Fletcher Babb, “Lean On Me: Emoji Death Threats and Instagram’s Codeine Kingpin,” Noisey, Vice, October 24, 2013.

According to a study conducted by Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, thousands of OxyContin pills dispersed in Canada ended up being smuggled into the United States during an 18 month period.

Between August 2010 and February 2012, Canada was offering the more addictive form of Oxy, while the United States was offering a tamper-resistant version of the drug that was not addictive. Researchers found that there was a large increase in the dispensing of OxyContin tablets at the Detroit-Windser tunnel area of the border between the two countries. During the time period, up to 250,000 OxyContin tablets were sold in excess than the amount needed in Canada. These pills are believed to have been smuggled into the United States for sale.

(More facts about pain killer abuse and statistics.)

Source:  Canadian Press, “Canada to heed U.S. pleas to crack down on generic OxyContin, Ambrose hints,” Global Post, October 21, 2013.