Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council

Rx Drugs

Latest Trends in Prescription Drug Abuse

What is the scope of prescription drug abuse in Middlesex County?

Prescription drugs are the second most abused category of substances after marijuana. In 2011, nearly 30 million Americans reported using marijuana while 16 million reported non-medical use of prescription drugs. This trend is reflected in high schools throughout America, as seen by 12th grade student use of substances (Chart A).

Graph A. Past-12 month use of Illicit and Rx drugs, 12th graders
Source: 2012 Monitoring the Future

In 2011 the number of past-year users declined for the first time since 2008: from an estimated 16.1 million in 2010 down to 14.7 million. This decrease also held true, over a longer stretch of time, for users age 12-17: from 4% of youth 12-17 in 2002 to 3% in 2010. (NUSDH)

Prescription drugs are also the second likeliest drug – again, after marijuana – to be tried by first time users. More than two-thirds (68%) of new users in 2011 reported that marijuana was their first drug. The second largest group of new users reporting trying non-medical use of prescription drugs, including pain relievers (14%), tranquilizers (4%), stimulants (3%), and sedatives (1%). (NSDUH)

The most popular prescription drug of abuse is pain relievers. In Connecticut as elsewhere, young adults age 18-25 are the people most likely to abuse them. In 2009-2010, young adult use was estimated at 11.08%, more than twice the rate of youth age 12-17 at 5% and four times the rate of adults age 26+ at 2.08. Graph B. shows past year use of non-medical pain relievers in Connecticut over time. In contrast to past-year use, 9.7% of Connecticut high school students reported using OTC drugs to get high at least once in their life, and 9.6% reported using prescription drugs to get high at least once in the life. (YRBS)

Graph B. Past-Year Use of Non-Medical Pain Relievers in Connecticut
Source: YRBSS

There is little data regarding the youthful misuse and abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in Middlesex County. The only pertinent Search Institute question is, “How many times …. have you used amphetamines (for example, methamphetamine, crystal meth, uppers, speed, bennies, dexies) without your own doctor’s prescription? The percentage of Middlesex County students using amphetamines is found in Chart C.

Chart C. Past 12-month student use of amphetamines (7th-12th gr.)

Town Use of Drug

B 3.0

C 2.5

D 6.5

E 7.75

F 4.25

H 5.0

I 6.5

Average 5.07

The Consequences of Prescription Drug Abuse

Although the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs has slightly declined, the number of drug-related emergency department (ED) visits involving the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs increased significantly from 2004 to 2010, according to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN- SAMHSA). From a low of 626,000 such visits to the ED in 2004, that number climbed to 1.3 million visits in 2010. Approximately one-half of the prescription abuse related ED visits in 2010 involved pain relievers (both opioid and non-opioid). More than one-third involved drugs to treat insomnia and anxiety. The 1.3 million ED visits for misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals in 2010 is higher than the 1.1 million ED visits for illicit drugs in 2010, primarily for cocaine (42%) and marijuana (39%). (DAWN)

In Connecticut in 2011, 3,503 people were admitted for opiate dependence (non-heroin) treatment. Of this number, 63% were male and 37% were female, with the overwhelming majority age 21 to 31. The 21-31 age seeking treatment corresponds to the largest number reporting non-medical use of pain relievers mentioned earlier (young adults 18-21).

All 11 school districts in Middlesex County report suspensions and expulsions related to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. One district had four suspensions/expulsions, three districts each had three suspensions/expulsions and the remaining seven districts reported no discipline for prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Our Capacity to Address This Issue

Local Prevention Councils have taken a more aggressive approach to prescription drug misuse and abuse in the past year, and those efforts will continue. Media campaigns along with training for school staff, sports coaches, and parents are building capacity. Frequent prescription drug take back events throughout the county have raised heightened public awareness. CNAW members rated our population’s capacity to address the problem of prescription drug abuse at 3.2.

393 Main Street, 2nd floor Middletown, CT 06457