In the April 9th 2001 issue of Newsweek Magazine comes a story about the increasing problem with pain killer medications. Presently four million Americans are abusing prescription drugs according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Much of the problem with abuse is directly linked to the usage of pain killers. Overall, while the pharmaceutical market doubled to $145 billion between 1996 and 2000, the painkiller market tripled to $1.8 billion over the same period.
When pharmaceuticals designed to relieve pain, calm stress or bring on sleep, are used for nonmedical reasons they can lead to addiction and damaged health, said Alan I. Leshner, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). To combat this problem the NIDA and seven organizations representing the elderly, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and patients are starting a campaign to combat what Leshner called "a dangerous new drug abuse trend' , the nonmedical use of prescriptions. NIDA reported that from 1990 to 1998, new users of pain relievers rose by 181 percent; new use of tranquilizers went up 132 percent; people starting taking sedatives went up by 90 percent, and the use of stimulants rose by 165 percent. It is estimated that about 17 percent of Americans age 60 and older are affected by prescription drug abuse. Leshner said that is because this age group uses about three times more of the drugs than do young people.
High profile cases of pain killer abuse have surfaced in Hollywood with stars such as Melanie Griffith and Matthew Perry each checking into rehab in the last six months and publicly acknowledging their addiction to prescription painkillers. Calvin Anthony, vice president of the National Community Pharmacists Association, estimated that misuse and abuse of medication has more than a $100 billion impact on the nation's health care costs.