The epidemiology and treatment of prescription drug disorders in the United States
The drug problem in the United States is a complex mosaic involving different types of drugs, consumption practices, and biological and psychological responses to their effects. Over the past two decades, the fields of psychiatry and neurology have witnessed dramatic scientific breakthroughs in understanding the actions of drugs that can be used to regulate the nervous system (Nestler, Hyman, & Malenka, 2009). This has led to a dramatic increase in use of these medications for treating a wide range of physical and mental disorders (Dasgupta et al., 2006). An unintended consequence of this increased level of availability is that a large proportion of these drugs are being consumed in excess of the dosage recommended by the manufacturer or prescriber, used to self-treat illnesses instead of seeking professional medical care, and/or combined with other drugs increase the desired effects. As a result, the numbers of unintentional poisonings and emergency room visits have nearly doubled. For instance, the latest figures from the Drug Abuse Warning Network<br>(DAWN) indicate that in 2008, that nearly half of the 2 million emergency room visits to U.S. hospitals involved prescription medications. Approximately two-thirds of those visits that involved prescription medications were for prescription pharmaceuticals only and no cooccurring<br>illicit drug or alcohol abuse (SAMHSA, 2006). In addition to the tremendous<br>economic costs associated with overdoses involving prescription medications, the adverse social and mental/physical health effects, though difficult to directly quantify, are considerable.