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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Almost 10 Million U.S. Adults Report Misusing Prescription Opioids

Pill bottles on a shelf

Nonmedical use of opioids is on the rise.

Photo: iStock

Nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled among adults in the United States from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013, based on a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Nearly 10 million Americans, or 4.1 percent of the adult population, used opioid medications—a class of drugs that includes OxyContin and Vicodin—in 2012-2013 without a prescription or not as prescribed (in greater amounts, more often or longer than prescribed) in the past year. This is up from 1.8 percent of the adult population in 2001-2002.

More than 11 percent of Americans report nonmedical use of prescription opioids at some point in their lives, a considerable increase from 4.7 percent 10 years prior.

The number of people who meet the criteria for prescription opioid addiction has substantially increased during this timeframe as well, with 2.1 million adults (0.9 percent of the U.S. adult population) reporting symptoms of “nonmedical prescription opioid use disorder,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.  

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