Medication Abuse

October 9, 2009 • Volume 19, Issue 35
Is tighter regulation of prescription drugs needed?
By Marcia Clemmitt


Pop superstar Michael Jackson, his death and danger of prescription drugs. (Getty Images/Joshua Gates Weisberg-Pool)
The sudden death of pop superstar Michael Jackson in June from an accidental overdose of sedatives and other drugs is seen as a wake-up call about the danger of prescription drugs. (Getty Images/Joshua Gates Weisberg-Pool)

Michael Jackson's shocking accidental death in June was only the latest in a string of high-profile fatalities from multiple prescription medications. Actor Heath Ledger and the model and sex symbol Anna Nicole Smith died recently in comparable circumstances. But celebrities aren't the only abusers of painkillers, sedatives and stimulants. Prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem in the United States, even as illegal drug use has gradually declined. In 2005, for example, more people ages 45 to 54 died from drug overdoses — mostly prescription painkillers — than in car crashes. Many people believe prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs, so changing public attitudes is a challenge. Also, many prescription narcotics are being diverted to dangerous, recreational use, but doctors, dentists and nurses are poorly informed about the potential for abuse. Meanwhile, government drug-education programs focus on illegal drugs while largely ignoring the risks of prescription abuse.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 20, 2016  Prescription Drug Costs
Oct. 11, 2013  Regulating Pharmaceuticals
Oct. 09, 2009  Medication Abuse
Mar. 11, 2005  Drug Safety
Jun. 06, 2003  Drug Company Ethics
Sep. 03, 1999  Drugmakers Under Siege
Jul. 17, 1992  Prescription Drug Prices
Nov. 25, 1959  High Price of Drugs
Substance Abuse