16 Million Americans Now Abuse Prescription Drugs

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A new United Nations report said Americans are abusing prescription drugs at an alarming rate, while cocaine use is down.

The annual UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report found that 16 million Americans -- 6.4% of the population -- regularly abuse prescription drugs. It said the "non-medical" use of pain relievers, tranquillizers, stimulants and sedatives had risen from 15.2 million in 2008 to 16 million in 2009.

It was also found that among those who received opium based pain relief, the number of patients who had to be treated for abuse of pain relievers more than tripled from 1998 to 2008, reaching 26.5 per cent.

At the same time, the number of Americans who used cocaine fell from 5.3 million in 2008 to 4.8 million in 2009.

The fall was attributed to a number of factors, including decreased cocaine manufacture in Colombia and pressure on the drug cartels in Mexico.

Aside from the prescription drug problem, the U.N. survey found that the U.S. continued to be the main country of destination for illegal drug shipments.

In 2009 the number of drug-related deaths increased sharply in the United States. The Board is also deeply concerned about the fact that the United States recorded for 2009 an increase in the abuse of all drugs except cocaine.

According to the report, an estimated 38 million people, 15.1 per cent of the population, used illicit drugs in 2009. That's an increase of 2.5 million people from 2008, and a disturbing reversal of a downward trend in recent years.

The report added it was:

Deeply concerned about "medical" cannabis schemes, which so far have been introduced in 14 states in the United States. The control measures applied in those states to the cultivation of cannabis plants and the production, distribution and use of cannabis fall short of the control requirements.