The incidences of misuse of prescription drugs for non-medical uses have nearly doubled over the past two decades. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) contends that up to 20% Americans have illicitly consumed prescription drugs during their lifetime, while Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) estimates that up to 15.1 million Americans abuse prescription drugs.
CASA also reports that teen abuse of prescription drugs has more than tripled (Under the Counter: The Diversion and Abuse of Controlled Prescription Drugs in the U.S.), a fact corroborated by NIDA's 2011 Monitoring The Future survey which discovered that over 8.1% of 12th-graders have consumed Vicodin without a valid prescription in the past year alone.
The abuse of prescription drugs is a major source of concern, especially considering the fact that the issue has consistently been overlooked by the authorities in favor of the more high profile psychoactive drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. This is despite the fact that the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs stand just behind marijuana as the most reported cases of substance abuse in North America.