Prescription Drug Abuse: A Complex Problem

05.26.17

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone has quadrupled since 1999, claiming the lives of 91 Americans each day.1 In 2014, two million Americans misused or were dependent on prescription opioids — roughly the combined populations of Rhode Island and Delaware.

Opioid abuse is a national epidemic that affects people of all backgrounds – it does not discriminate by race, wealth, age or any other characteristic. As the crisis worsens, health care providers, government agencies, community organizations and private businesses are working hard to find a solution.

Infographic: The Complex Problem of Prescription Drug Abuse

Public Awareness is Critical

CVS Health is playing an active role in the search for solutions to the opioid crisis in a number of ways, including conducting opinion polls to understand public sentiment. Through these polls, we’ve learned that:

  • Three in four Americans believe the majority of or some prescription drug abuse is tied to people who take medications prescribed for someone else.

  • One in three Americans surveyed report having unused medication in their homes.

  • Nearly half of respondents are concerned that unused medication in their home could be misused.

Insights like these help us enhance existing opioid abuse prevention programs and inform the design of new tools and interventions that can help mitigate the issue.

Ensuring Proper Disposal

For the 30 percent of Americans who have unused medications in their homes, it’s important for them to understand how to properly dispose of it. Medications that are flushed can impact local streams and lakes, and unsecured medication that remains in medicine cabinets may get into the wrong hands.

In collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, CVS Health created the Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program, through which local police departments can apply to receive a drug collection unit. To date, we have donated more than 762 units in 43 states and have collected more than 81.6 metric tons of unwanted medication. We also continue to support National Drug Take-Back Day by hosting law enforcement drug collection events in our parking lots.

Steps Toward Prevention

We’re deeply committed to preventing both opioid abuse and opioid overdose deaths. This includes:

  • Efforts to prevent drug diversion by identifying, investigating and stopping the filling of controlled substance prescriptions at our stores written by prescribers who exhibit questionable patterns of prescribing for high-risk drugs.

  • An advanced analytics platform that leverages CVS Health’s dispensing data to help detect suspected forged prescriptions.

  • Advocating for states to allow pharmacists to dispense the overdose reversal medication naloxone, pursuant to a physician’s standing order, to patients who do not have a prescription. As of May 2017, 41 states allow this practice.

  • Our Pharmacists Teach® program brings local pharmacists to high school health classes to talk about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

For more information about our efforts in the fight against opioid abuse, visit our Prescription Drug Abuse information center. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention