A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the United States highlights the fact that prescription drug abuse is not limited to painkillers but extends into other classes of drugs including central nervous systems stimulants.
These stimulants are used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but are increasingly being abused in nonmedical ways including recreational use and as study aids. In 2005, there were an estimated 5,605 emergency department visits among young adults age 18 to 34 related to central nervous system stimulants. 22% of those visits were also alcohol-related. Fast forward to 2011 and an estimated 22,949 emergency department visits among those age 18 to 34 were related to central nervous stimulants with 30% of those being alcohol-related.
There has been a tremendous amount of attention paid to the abuse of prescription painkillers in the United States and justifiably so. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 15,000 people died in 2008 from prescription painkillers.
The problem of prescription painkiller abuse deserves focused attention but the issue should also be viewed within the context of prescription drug abuse more broadly.