More Americans Misusing Illicit Painkillers For The First Time Than Trying Pot, Study Says

Washington, DC: More Americans report misusing prescription opioids than trying pot, according to a study released last week by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

According to the report, a record 2.15 million Americans over age 12 reported misusing prescription pain relievers for the first time in 2007 (the last year for which data was available). By comparison, the study found that 2.1 million Americans reported using cannabis for the first time.

The study reported that the total number of unintentional deaths involving prescription opioids increased 114 percent from 3,994 in 2001 to 8,541 in 2005, the most recent year for which nationwide data was available.

Violent crime associated with the diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical painkillers has increased steadily over the past five years, the study’s authors found. Researchers concluded that Americans’ misuse of prescription opioids now costs taxpayers over $72 billion annually.

Commenting on the new report, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said, “Were U.S. drug policy to be guided on science and objective harms rather than on ideology and cultural stereotypes, it is clear that the focus of America’s so-called ‘war’ on drugs would be on Americans’ widespread misuse of potentially deadly pharmaceuticals rather than on adults’ occasional use of a relatively nontoxic plant that is incapable of causing human overdose.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the report, The National Prescription Drug Threat Assessment, is available online at: