Prescription drug abuse & addiction: past, present and future: the paradigm for an epidemic

W V Med J. 2010;106(4 Spec No):26-32.


Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and West Virginia is not immune. It is estimated that in 2009, the number of adolescents and adults with a substance abuse and/or dependence problem has reached 23.2 million in the US. There has been an alarming rate of increased sales of methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone. This article addresses the scope of the problem of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia and the impact by and on the addicted individual. Addiction is a chronic relapsing neuropsychiatric illness manifested by compulsive drug seeking and use. It has created a substantive socioeconomic burden on our state. Prescription drug abuse and addiction increase medical expenses, drug related crime and unemployment. There are misconceptions regarding the etiology and treatment of addiction based on past clinical experience. The view of addiction as volitional misconduct alone has been disproven scientifically. A more current understanding of neurobiological alterations caused by this disease, current treatment strategies and future directions will be presented. This article provides an understanding of prescription drug abuse and addiction's contribution and impact on society's health and social policy. Addressing the problem of prescription drug abuse requires an understanding of the disease of addiction, thus enhancing the effectiveness in diminishing the associated health and social costs. It is the article's intent to illuminate the mutually symbiotic relationship of prescription drug abuse and the disease of addiction and subsequently provide recommendations toward the resolution of this most important issue.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Drug Overdose
  • Epidemics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prescription Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Prescription Drugs / poisoning
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / physiopathology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • West Virginia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Prescription Drugs