Abuse of prescription drugs

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Medical misuse of medicines
Medicinal drug abuse
Overprescription of pharmaceuticals
Overuse of medicaments
Misuse of narcotic pharmaceuticals

The abuse of readily available legal drugs may take the form of overwillingness by doctors to prescribe strong drugs for ailments calling for less addictive or harmful means; overdosage, or other misuse, by the patient; or experiments by young people with drugs taken initially from medicine cabinets (illicit drug traffic is greatly aided by legal production). Further abuse is sometimes found in the medical profession itself (cocaine, opium, morphine, codeine, LSD, barbiturates, hypnotics, etc., are currently used in medicine). Inadequate control, testing, and general information have disastrous effects.


Attention deficit disorder, ADD, is a fashionable disorder of the late 1990's among adults and is probably being overdiagnosed. The stimulant drug which treats it is now widely used as a recreational drug by college students and ambitious professionals.

Re-emerging, and now drug-resistant, infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria, have been encouraged by uncontrolled and inappropriate use of antibiotics. They are used to treat the wrong infections at the wrong dosage and for the wrong period of time. The use of antibiotics in food production to increase growth aggravates the problem.

Driving under the influence of drugs causes more fatal car crashes than drunken driving, according to a 2017 report compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility: prescription and/or illegal drugs were involved in 43 percent of fatal car crashes in 2015, while 37 percent involved illegal amounts of alcohol.

In 2013, about 23,000 Americans died from overdosing on prescription drugs; painkillers accounted for about 16,000 of those deaths. 

The number of Australians accidentally dying from overdoses of prescription drugs is on the rise, with more than three quarters of overdose deaths involving pharmaceutical opioids: 1045 people died in 2016 from opioid overdoses (morphine, codeine, oxycodone and fentanyl). Opioid induced death rates have almost doubled in the past 10 years, from 3.8 to 6.6 deaths per 100,000 Australians.  Prescription drugs accounted for 65 per cent of these deaths and 85 per cent were considered accidental. Opioid-induced deaths was higher among males, and in 2016 alone 143 people aged between 55 and 84 died from accidental opioid overdoses, from a total of 409 people who overdosed.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
30.04.2022 – 04:13 CEST