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Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic affecting all manner of people, from stressed out students cramming for exams, to ambitious professionals and athletes, to recovering soldiers returning from battle. And despite the death toll and the recurring headlines of surging overdose deaths, the rates of prescription drug abuse and addiction continue to steadily grow.  The abuse of painkillers has cost the United States almost $53.4 billion in terms of lost productivity, medical costs and legal fees.

People who abuse prescription painkillers have a greater risk of addiction than people who take them as prescribed – but it’s important to remember that the medication itself is addictive. Even someone who takes opioids (narcotics) as prescribed by a doctor can develop a physical dependence on the drug, especially if prescribed for several weeks or more.  Heroin has the same chemical make-up as a prescribed opioid and 80% of heroin users indicated they started out taking a prescription opioid.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015. 

This is a growing problem all over the country, including Indiana.  For Indiana specific stats, click here.  

The “County Profile of Opioid Use and Related Outcomes” can be found here