Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse| Prescription medications relieve all sorts of ills, but they are increasingly being abused for recreation or addiction. In 2002, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 29.6 million Americans had used pain relievers non-medically; by 2005, the number had risen to 32.7 million.1

In 2009, 45 percent of the nearly 4.6 million drug-related emergency room visits nationwide were attributed to abuse of pharmaceuticals.2 The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates that of the 2.1 million drug abuse visits, 27.1 percent involved non-medical use of medications.3 Prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed. Abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health effects, including addiction. Commonly abused classes of prescription medications include opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants.

HealthTeamWorks has just released a new clinical guideline supplement on prescription drug abuse prevention [] to assist primary care providers and others. The supplement is part of the SBIRT program — Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment — that we offer to healthcare organizations free of charge. SBIRT Colorado partners with HealthTeamWorks to work directly with primary care throughout the state to integrate the Alcohol and Substance Use Screening Guideline into clinical practice.

The supplement includes screening questions, responsible opioid prescribing, behavioral health considerations, tips for patients and care-givers and resources for prescribers. Printed front and back on an 8 ½ x 11 inch page, the supplement, like all HealthTeamWorks guidelines, is concise and easy to use in the clinical setting.

HealthTeamWorks’ clinical guidelines and supplements are available for free download []. To ask questions about our guidelines, e-mail or call 720-297-1681.


1. Maxwell JC. Trends in the abuse of prescription drugs. The Center for Excellence in Drug Epidemiology, the Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center, the University of Texas at Austin., accessed Sept. 20, 2011.
2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA InfoFacts: Drug-Related Hospital Emergency Room Visits., accessed Sept. 20, 2011.
3. Ibid.