By the Numbers: The Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

06.14.16

The statistics are startling:

  • 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses.1
  • In 2014, nearly two million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.2
  • Nearly half of youths who inject heroin started out by abusing prescription drugs.3

It’s no wonder that the health care community recognizes prescription drug abuse as a national public health priority. But do most Americans? As we continue our prescription drug abuse prevention efforts, we felt it was important to understand how people in the communities we serve are thinking about this problem.  

In partnership with Morning Consult, CVS Health recently conducted a public opinion poll on prescription drug abuse among more than 2,000 registered voters in the United States. Highlights from the poll help shine a light on the size of the issue and factors that are important to consider going forward. Here are a few of the insights:  

Prescription Drug Abuse is A Problem … and A Personal One

More than 82 percent of registered voters think prescription drug abuse is a problem in our country, and two-thirds believe that the problem is increasing. Nearly half have firsthand experience, with 41 percent of respondents reporting they know someone who has abused or is abusing prescription drugs.

There is Universal Concern

Regardless of political party, age or geography, prescription drug abuse is a major concern for voters. Eighty-four percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Independents agree that prescription drug abuse is a national problem.

It’s Important Our Future Leader Address the Issue

Looking ahead, the public foresees this issue as one that future leaders will have to address. In fact, nearly two-thirds (62-percent) of respondents think it’s important that candidates for President address the issue.

There Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Respondents believe multiple factors contribute to prescription drug abuse – and specifically abuse of opioid-based prescription painkillers. In turn, they also think many different tactics would be effective in reducing the problem, including monitoring for over-prescribing and/or filling multiple prescriptions for certain classes of drugs.

CVS Health proactively engages in efforts to help ensure patients who need medication receive it, and that inappropriate use is curbed. This includes:

  • Fulfilling an obligation to refuse to fill prescriptions our pharmacists feel are not being used for legitimate medical purposes.
  • Identifying physicians who exhibit extreme patterns of prescribing high-risk drugs, such as pain medications, and suspending dispensing of their controlled-substance prescriptions.

With the partnership and support of dedicated public and private-sector partners, we are committed to advancing proposals, promoting technology and creating safer communities to address the problem and support better health.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Releases Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, 2016.
2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2014.
3 Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, From Rx to Heroin, 2016. 

Naloxone availability across the United States

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CVS Pharmacy patients in 41 states now have access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug, naloxone.

Follow our commitment to drug abuse prevention as we increase access to the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug.