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April 6th, 2010
06:29 AM ET

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[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="An estimated 5.2 million Americans abuse prescription drugs and the problem is growing so fast that experts say that the number of drug treatment facilities will need to double in the next 10 years."]

Prescription Pill Cocktail

(CNN) – The number of prescription drug overdose deaths is now the number one cause of overdose death in the U.S. and it’s they're the second most abused drug behind marijuana. The biggest group of abusers, people ages twelve to twenty five and they’re mixing multiple drugs creating their own custom high.

In our next installment of our special series, "Addicted," we spoke with two current prescription drug abusers and one former user and get an up close and personal look at how easy it is to start a habit and how hard it is to break.

Sound off: How far reaching is the prescription drug phenomena? Add your comments to the LIVE blog below and we'll read some of them on the show.

Filed under: Addicted... • LIVE Blog • Top Stories
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Matt

    Very concerning this many people are faced with pill addiction. I was in a Lowe's Hardware store and noticed you can buy a medicine cabinet pill lockbox for only $9.98. The signage said it would retrofit most medicine cabinets that are already installed. This may be the best money ever spent if it prevents your kids from stealing prescription medicines. After reading some of the other comments they should probably install one of these in their homes.

    April 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  2. chris

    i see over indulgence allot in these comments , how about escape from reality even , or have people just think life is so wonderful it is like that for everyone, or do we even know what addiction is , have you been through it , seen it first hand , if not then do , until then lets let the people on the front line help , and not you arm chair docs. thanks

    April 6, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  3. chris

    i laugh cuz now it is a problem now , what about back in the seventies when my mom ruined her liver with prescription drugs. but hey it makes drug companies money , controlled they say , an yet weed is still yet to cause any thing close to these drugs or even alcohol, which my father died from a seizure trying to quit. i don't trust the government never have never will they lie to us daily to line their pockets with the money hard working people make. how long are we as a nation going to allow the rich entitled douche bags keep telling us what to do with our bodies an minds , stop the madness take back our own lives an stop the enslaving of our children. or does jesus or buddha or muhammad or this flying spaghetti monster tell you to let this happen . this isn't about safety its all about greed an control it is obvious

    April 6, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  4. Paul Mysza

    I must have went to the best schools in America, when I was younger, because we did not have anyone in special education. Not a single one of my friends were given prescription drugs for ADD or ADHD. It is amazing, to me, that psychiatrists are giving children such addicting and powerful drugs. Most of my friends went to college, even though they may have had the same symptoms as children of today. Our drop out rate is out of control today. Why was I not given some drug to keep me from daydreaming? I had to run the track when I got restless in class.

    April 6, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  5. Tara

    I didn't mean to imply that prescription drugs need to be eliminated. I was referring to patients who are addicted to prescription drugs and the physicians keep giving them more prescriptions for narcotics instead of giving a anti-craving, non-narcotic prescription.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:38 am |
  6. Tara

    After living with an addict for over five years and being in the medical field I feel there are many actions on both sides that could be taken. In this addictive society I can't understand why most physicians don't take the time and effort to drug test new patients on the initial visit and existing patients on a regular basis. I have worked in physicians office for years and been in medical sales and out of all my physicians I have called on over the years I only have ONE that actually drug test each new patient and drug test each patient on each visit. These drug test can be done within minutes and if there is a question she can send test out for further testing. Caring enough about each individual patient to not contribute to a potential addictive person is KEY. I have also worked with a company that provides the fast drug test and also does a extensive genetic testing ,with urine, that gives the physician information on if this patient is at risk for being an addict according to the results of the genetic testing for an addictive gene or reward deficiency disorder. There is also a non-narcotic prescription that can be given to help the patient with decreasing cravings for drugs. I have worked in the sales field trying to get physicians to add this protocol to their clinic and only a handful are committed and interested. Seems that a few extra steps to get a full reading on your patients in this addictive society is not worth the time for most physicians. Believe me, I have worked in the medical field for over 25 years and respect physicians very much but this is a very disappointing and frustrating situation with prescribing and not keeping up with existing patients by drug testing and getting to know your new patients, up front, with initial drug testing. Knowing that there are non-narcotic drugs to assist these patients with their cravings and they are STILL PRESCRIBING REGULAR NARCOTICS!!! I can't understand this concept! Let's not forget the insurance companies that are at fault in some of this also!

    April 6, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  7. Ian Caffrey

    Let's not forget the Founding Fathers of the United States of America advocated, participated in, used and produced all the drugs being villified here. Alcohol, opium, marihauna and who knows what else BUILT this country! George Washington was a distiller and reccomended to all farmers they grow marihuana, and its in writing. Dont forget THAT next time you crack open a Coca-Cola!

    April 6, 2010 at 9:19 am |

    every pill the doctors precribe, he gets a kick back, His insurance is so high, he have to make money one way or another,to pay his insurance and his big homes.If kids had a caring mother, they might not need pills. ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE. Someone to be home when they get home form svchool. That would help a lot

    April 6, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  9. Ed

    Call me a racist, but the problem with prescription drug use is a problem with young, white people. And that is why you are covering it. Young black people are not stealing prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinet. When are you going to do a piece on what is killing young black people – guns.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  10. Joy in Kansas City

    My daughter was given oxycottin 8 years ago by her doctor at the Student Health Services clinic where she attended college and thus began an eight year addiction that has been a nightmare. Doctors of all sorts were more than willing to give her more and more drugs (for her "back pain," her "anxiety" – anything she could conjure up). What has astounded me (aside from the fact that a student health doctor can even prescribe such a drug) is the willingness of the insurance companies to pay for these drugs – surly if there were one source that could easily see a pattern of doctor shopping it would be them. But, no – they paid for her addiction freely. Now that she is in recovery and working with legitimate counselors and doctors to stay clean my biggest worry is that the insurance company will drop her. Nice system, eh?

    April 6, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  11. Chris

    Another thing: JCAHO a few years back judged that physicians weren't paying as much attention to pain control as we should be and pretty much demanded that more be done. If we didn't, then federal funds to hospitals would be withdrawn. A result: Many physicians began prescribing more opioids, sometimes inappropriately.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  12. American Morning

    Thanks for the comments everyone! See you tomorrow, Wednesday!

    April 6, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  13. Chris

    Oklahoma does have a system where all pharmacies are supposed to report to the state drug control agency when a stimulant, benzodiazepine, opiate, or similar substance prescription is filled. It has really helped to identify individuals who doctor shop. I'll soon be moving to a state without such a system and, as a resident becoming an attending, that scares me.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  14. Susan

    During your story I kept wondering "where are the parents of these young adults?" What are their parents doing to help their kids? Why do the parents have that kind of drug in the house? Are the parents addicts too?

    Cary, NC

    April 6, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  15. Leon from Florida

    It is not only young people that have prescription drug problems, but our Nation has one also. If you watch any television, it tells you that that you need to take this drug or that drug and everything will be OK. We are a drug addicted nation, and we need to learn that we need to deal with our problems with out depending on drugs. While there is a real need for some prescription drugs, the drug companies want us to believe that we need these chemicals in our systems to survive. Count how many commercials we see in 1 hour on TV for drugs that cannot be gotten without a prescription from our Doctors, how much of the cost of drugs go up to cover the Ad cost?

    April 6, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  16. Beth

    Southern Ohio is "dying", from prescription drug abuse! As a home care nurse, I see it everyday. It touches everyone close to them, their family, neighbours, and friends. They will steal from their parents, children, strangers, and jobsite. No one can trust them w/ anything. Their children and homes are neglected. It's at an epidemic level. Our local leaders have had open community forums on how to combat the problem. No solutions yet except to try and shut down the "pill mills". Any suggestions?

    April 6, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  17. ItsonTV

    Its a problem of a culture of excess and a pharmaceutical industry which doesn't want to restrain that overindulgence because they profit from it.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  18. Claudia

    As a pharmacist, I see the primary reason for the over-prescribing of narcotics as a way of keeping people in the health care system. Patients being treated with these drugs are typically seen at a minimum of every 3 months, and generally show up for their appointments. We now have many children, starting at age 4, on prescription amphetamines, and have now become a part of the health care system indefinitely. These amphetamines are equally being prescribed to adults for various reasons, including OB/GYN's giving Adderall for weight loss. The war on street amphetamines is hypocrisy. Public schools have refused to permit certain students from attending unless they are taking amphetamines, and the same public schools have actually paid for the student's medications at times. Your children have no choice but to struggle with addiction.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  19. Bob

    This is a huge problem in this country effecting more families than we realize. No one wants to talk about their brother, sister, aunt, uncle, mother, father, or even grandmother or grandfather that has a prescription drug problem. It seems like every family has one or more members strung out on prescription drugs. These cash visit doctors need to be held accountable for their actions. People bounce around from Dr. to Dr. paying cash for visits and walk out with prescriptions without question. Whatever system the DEA uses to track a Dr.s distribution of prescriptions is apparently not working. I had to scan my license at the drug store to pick up 1 box of OTC medicine containing Pseudoephedrine yet they have no means of tracking an individuals consumption of bottle after bottle of controlled substances. People are dying and families are being ruined by this epidemic. Yet we continue to talk about it like it's just young kids or some random drug addict somewhere far from where we live. It's not. It's our family members and the people we see everyday.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  20. Jim Voigt

    Having been a highly productive drug user; not abuser in the 60's, 70's, 80;s 90;s 00's and this decade I believe I can speak will considerable alacrity on these matters. Non synthesized drugs pose little risk to ones internal organs as they are natural. As pain killers they provide a sense of well being and relive anxiety. Anxiety due to worry about more pain is why most people take drugs whether it be physical pain itself or simply for euphoria as akin to a couple of drinks before dinner.
    prescription drugs are the worst of all for several reasons
    1. the side effects on your organs
    2. they give no sense of well being they just numb
    3. 3 the high costs
    I believe its time to look at the Portuguese solution of total decriminalization; by adopting this type of solution crime would be reduced since the cost of grown drugs is almost nothing.
    For example in 1900 the cost of a dose of opium was the same price as a beer. I have photos of bars offering 5¢ beers with a Free Lunch; today according to MCN / UNODC Afghanistan Opium Price Monitoring Average dry opium price at farm gate level is USD 74/kg compared to USD 98kg in April 2008. That works out to 7.4¢ per gram. This amount would probably provide 3 doses taken with tea & brandy. It has always been said "more than 3 pipes or drinks a day is a sign of addiction".

    Pharmaceutical company's just cannot compete so pot & opium are illegal.
    The worst part of the system is that if drugs were to be really stamped out all the DEA would have to due is track the acids that are used to cook down the base both for heroin & cocaine. My only conclusion is that the industry's that have grown with the failure on this drug war have gained the power to influence & keep failed policies in place while making a mockery of being in a FREE country. I guess America should say Free To Do As Your Told.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  21. Melon

    By the time a "child" is 18 they should have learned from their parents. Blankets excuses don't cover everything. Individual cases are different.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  22. Kellen

    Moderation is lacking. America's youth seems to struggle alot with this concept with respect to abusing drugs in general, and not just prescription drugs. In my college experience drugs such as adderall are commonly "abused" but in a moderated fashion. Students use this drug to help them study and focus on school work and various related tasks. Other drugs such as pain killers may be used in a more recreational manner, but again victims overdose due to poor moderation, and excessive use. This clearly demonstrates a lack of knowledge about such prescribed drugs. Not only is it parents who need to talk to their children, but also doctors when prescribing commonly abused medications to patients.

    Lets face it, people are going to experiment with drugs. With concepts as simple as saying, "Hey, experiment by starting off with low doses," or just explaining the effects of the drugs, alot of "addictions" could be avoided, or better yet, people could use the drugs in a way to actually benefit themselves.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  23. Ian Caffrey

    Dear CNN– your story aired moments ago on addictive medications was alarming on several levels. First, it is going to further frighten doctors–many of whom in my home state are already terrified by the DEA, BNDD and the new PMP into NOT prescribing pain and other medications out of fear these overzealous agencies will bash down their doors. Secondly, it contributes to untold patient suffering–legitimately injured patients are already suspected of "overdosing themselves" EVEN IN THE HOSPITAL ICU WHERE THEY ARE WATCHED CONSTANTLY. Third, you're teaching the young you pretend to be protecting how to go about obtaining narcotics. Fourth, you are instructing current malingerers HOW to doctor and pharmacy-shop! So many states now have Prescription Monitoring Programs that instantly allow doctors to view a patients entire presciption history combined with state Bureau of Narcotic Diversion Departments (BNDD's) and the DEA system combined with insurance company watchdogs its a miracle that MORE people aren't committing suicide from unmnagaed cancer pain. And in Louisiana they DO. The suicide rate here is double the Natioanl average for males in undermanged pain. Respectfully, a Louisiana Resident.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  24. Terri

    I do blame the doctors...I do blame the individuals...I do blame the system. I do not blame the parent. When a child becomes 18 years old then the parent is lost in the whole equation. I tried every avenue that I could to stop the doctors from prescribing meds to my adult daughter to no avail. My daughter went through a state treatment program that I wouldn't put my dog through. (Hindsight) Addicts are treated awful...not even like they are human beings. They lose their credit rating with so many consequences following. They cannot find housing. They cannot find work. They have no money. Then you throw into the situation the possbility that they have children. Who now is supppose to care for all these people? Yep either family or the system. And yes the system is the same one who doesn't allow an addict housing money or work. Living with a struggling recovering addict is a nighmare. Doctors now prescribe new medicines....for depression, seizures (drug induced), anxiety, etc. No one has any real quality of life. Anyone want to give me $50 so that I can take my grandchilden to a movie? Just for a little bit, I would like to feel some joy and fun in my life and enjoy my child and her children....even if its 2 hours at the movie. Because living this life leaves no room for entertainment because you are too busy with providing a roof and food. As hard as one tries not to be angry or bitter, the taste is in the mouth. But, I will do my absolute best to make a safe and happy environment for my daughter and her children. So, if you are a doctor, or a social worker or the addict and you are reading this....please understand that there are real and long lasting effects of your actions.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  25. Melon

    Blaming the doctors is equal to blaming the barn for leaving it's door open.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  26. Sandi

    I've been taking percocet and xanax for years now to the tune of 320 10/650 a month of percocet and 90 xanax, I hate myself and wish I could stop but I can't, The pain I suffer daily is horrible, but the side effects from these's medications aren't any fun either! I can't understand how these kids are taking 20plus pills at a time and then mixing them with alcohol, Are their lives truely that bad that they have to abuse medication to cope?

    April 6, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  27. Jennifer Stoll

    Thank you for your recent piece on prescription pain killers. This is a national epidemic that continues under the premise of health care. It was particularly relevant that you brought attention to the drastic increase in prescriptions for narcotic pain killers. Please keep this issue in the spotlight.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  28. Melon

    Like alot of problems – this one starts in the home. Education isn't just in a classroom but part of everyday life. Parents have to be aware of their child(ren) environment and what they are doing. Proper disposal of unused medications is required. Teaching your child(ren) that it is dangerous to use meds prescribed for someone else is mandatory.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  29. Eric

    I went through my pain killer addiction about a year ago and it got pretty bad. The opiate family consists of the most addictive drugs on the planet. Opiates give you this euphoric feeling, a false perception of life. When you're on them, you feel like you're the happiest person in the world, but once it wears off, the crash is unbearable and you crave for the drug more and more. An Oxy Contin 80 milligram pill (which goes for about $50 on the streets) is basically synthetic heroine. It's a small pill in size, but I swear it's the devil.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  30. Wil Wynn

    What CNN should focus in is the incredible "legal" availability of prescription drugs for a fee. Here in Miami. you can get anything you want as long as you have a pain :"diagnosis". Pain clinics are the main "risk free" pushers. The use of drugs among youth is rampant. The "Drug court", however well meaning, is a joke. It's corrupt from the bottom up: when I complained to an officer of the court, via a telephone call, that a relative was on a methadone program and was still testing "clean" because he used his 8 year old nephew's urine, he listened to me and said, "addicts are very devious, we cannot check everything." The NEXT DAY, my relative knew that I had called! And urine testing is a sham: what kind of program asks the addict to bring the urine in instead of being tested at the facility, in front of guards, using the local technology?
    Your program focus on the addicts and you miss the truth: we make it easy for them to get the drugs but very hard to get off. Nobody punishes the llegal pushesr, the corrupt systems.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  31. Laura

    I blame the gov't schools for the young drug use. First they have DARE which shows them what drugs are how to get them then DARES them not to use them. Statistics have shown that where DARE is the more and younger the drug use. DARE tells the children to be autonomous decision makers (they decide) on whether they want to use or not.
    Secondly, the teachers push the parents to put children on ritalin etc. and then you wonder why there is so much young drug abuse.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  32. N.L.

    I was rear ended by a drunk driver at high speeds which caused me to have whiplash which slowly over 4 years developed into debilitating Fibromyalgia. I have hourly pain issues that I currently control with Narcotics via my pain specialist. I hate taking pain medication, my doctors tell me I have no signs of addiction, and that my personality does not correlate to someone who would abuse pills and I know this to be true.

    I also take over a dozen medications for Systemic Lupus, so my life depends on taking these medications. It sickens me when I hear about people who are addicted to prescription pills because those of us that truly need the meds have to go through the strict process that is not in place as a way to try and capture these addicted people.

    I have faced and are still facing many of the walls doctors put up because they are scared of those that abuse pills. I am lucky I have doctors that stand behind me and are helping me handle my pain. If I could not control my pain with narcotics right now, I would not be working as a nurse. I plan within the year to try and get off narcotics and try alternative medications with my doctors. Narcotics are not worth it.

    I know a 15 year old boy that is going down the dangerous path of drug abuse. I used to trust him like a son, now I have to lock up my medications when he comes over. Period.

    I have to wear 125mcg patches of Fentanyl and I usually take 4 – 10 15mg Oxycodones a day. I have Ativan for anxiety, but never take it because I do not like mood adjusters as I like to be in my right mind. I also refuse to take antidepressants because I am happy with life only unhappy with the pain and suffering that drunk driver caused me.

    To anyone addicted to pill I suggest you get help, and you start thinking about what you COULD be doing instead and what you COULD accomplish if you did not spend your time on pills.

    To people who use pills for legitimate pain reasons – lock up your medications NO MATTER WHO is coming over. You never know.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:41 am |
  33. Karen from SC

    I'm someone who needs my pain medications. What I do is keep them in a safe place, but if I have to leave my house, I take them with me.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:41 am |
  34. Mark

    It is not a personality trait or chemical imbalance. I am 30 years old and I started in high school with Vicodin and here I am 15 years later, addicted to Oxycontin, xanax, dilaudid, these are highly addictive opioids that latch on to the brain and give the body heroin like effects. It has nothing to do with chemical imbalances or depression. Sure, some personalities are more prone to addiction because of the life they've led.... I started popping non addictive pain pills in high school and it was a gateway to more dangerous drugs. These are the drugs that Corey Haim and Heath Ledger died from. You don't doctor shop for aderol. Trust me.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:41 am |
  35. bob

    we know the kingpins = pharmaceutical ceo's
    we know the pushers = marketing personal
    we know the street level pushers = pain clinics and licensed doctors
    yet the dea can't shut this down = lobby money and campaign donations
    meanwhile thousands die!

    April 6, 2010 at 7:39 am |
    • JAvier

      Agree with you 1000% I won't go see a doctor for anything short of a bleeding wound

      April 6, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  36. Jason

    This is why its ridiculous that marijuana is illegal. It's harmless. Pills are so easy to get. So, kids die taking them.. It's so easy to get caught with marijauana and go to prison. Can't deny that you can't overdose on marijuana. save the kids and legalize marijuana it's a no brainer.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  37. Marg Dukes

    My 34 year old son, married with 4 children has been a prescription drug addict for over two years. It started with simple surgery and his family doctor putting him on OXICONTIN. What a terrible mistake. He was given prescription renewals for months. It all started with his own family doctor and now he goes back to this same family doctor for help for his addiction and is given nothing. Doctors should not be allowed to renew these dangerous drugs nor give them to young people for simple surgery pain. They should be punished for renewing these medications. They have ruined thousands and thousands of families.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:38 am |
  38. Phil Trieu

    I was in high school in the late 90's and growing up in a Chicago suburbs i was exposed to the whole prescription drug. It is surprising that 10-12 years later this problem has gotten to this extent. Although i was a lucky enough to steer clear of this i have seen many personal friends die from overdoses. I just hope that this story will bring more light to this growing epidemic.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  39. Caleb

    Yes, kids do not realize that they are using, but why do these parent that are confronted with the warning labels ignore them, and then say, "oh I just did not know they were bad"? hello! they are legal DRUGS the word states what it is just cause the pharmaceutical companies own this countries does not mean you abuse them. This is the American Parents fault. but wait we will find someone else to blame just like we always do. Go America. Find the excuse and blame someone else because your bad parents!

    April 6, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  40. JAvier

    I strongly believe that the whole prescription drug thing is a bigger issue than just teens , if u watch any kind of tv anymore 30%-40% of commercials on tv are for some kind of drug . And even worse , I have NO faith and absolutely NO trust in doctors anymore , their answer to anything and everything is a prescription .. Who are they really working for ??

    April 6, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  41. OYA


    April 6, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  42. maroof

    all these kids need their parents attention. most of the both parents are in their own world, by that i mean is working all the time and kids have freedom to do what they want. parents and schools needs to take tougher sanctions on today's generation. Parents are not tougher with their kids, if they get tougher kids are allowed to report them. i am not saying to beat kids up,but there are many things that can be done. how can it be that a kid just walks in to parents room and grab a pill and start snorting it and parents wouldn't find out? Public schools and parents are to be blamed for all this today's generation behavior towards all kinds of drugs!!!!

    April 6, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  43. Jennifer

    The problem starts with the physicians, PAs and Nurse Practitioners....I watch as they prescribed LARGE amounts of narcotics, muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medications to their patients month after month after month. Until the prescribers are educated about how dangerous this is (and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath as far as I'm concerned), this problem will NOT go away.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  44. Melon

    Is addiction a personality trait .. or the result of a condition such as depression?

    April 6, 2010 at 7:28 am |
  45. Frank

    Do all addicted people end up lose intrest in everything but the drugs or alcohol their abusing? How long does it take to regain intrest in normal things after the highs by drugs and alcohol?

    April 6, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  46. Melon

    Sympathies to the families of the miners killed in the mine explosion. All Americans feel your pain.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:02 am |