Prescription drugs are just as addictive as illegal drugs. For example, hydrocodone, a prescription opiate, is synthetic heroin. It's indistinguishable from any other heroine as far as your brain and body is concerned. So, if you're hooked on hydrocodone, you are in fact a good-old-fashioned heroin addict. One-third of new addicts report that their first drug experience was with prescription drugs. Overdose victims range in age and circumstance from teenagers who pop pills to get a heroin-like high to middle-aged working men and women who take medications prescribed for strained backs and bum knees and become addicted. The most commonly abused prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drugs are second to marijuana as the drug of choice for today's teens. In fact, alcohol and cigarette use have generally decreased over the last two decades, prescription drugs (Adderall, Vicodin, Tranquilizers, Cold Medicines, OxyContin, Ritalin) account for the most drugs abused by 12th graders after marijuana according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2014-survey-results
More than 40 percent of high school seniors reported that painkillers are 'fairly' or 'very' easy to get. They also reported that they believed that if they were to get caught, there was less shame attached to the use of prescription drugs than to street drugs. This mirrors the perceptions of their parents, who when queried said that they felt prescription drugs were a safer alternative to drugs typically sold by a drug dealer. And in 2009, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related visits to U.S. emergency rooms nationwide, with more than half due to adverse reactions to prescription medications – most of which were being taken exactly as prescribed. Worse, it has been found that pediatric prescription drug abuse is getting worse. More children are exposed, more are seen in an ED, more are admitted, and more are injured each year. See, Bond, Woodward, Ho, “The Growing Impact of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Poisoning,” 160 Journal of Pediatrics 265-270 (Feb. 2012), http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476%2811%2900771-2/fulltext
Prescription medications can be beneficial. But medications are prescribed in harmful even lethal ways. The growing number of deaths due to prescription drug use, even when taken as prescribed, needs investigation by law enforcement in its “war on drugs.”