Controlled substances are not only drugs of abuse, but include medications that have a useful and legitimate purpose. In addition to narcotics, the class includes certain hormones, anti-seizure medications, stimulants and depressants. Physicians who write prescriptions for controlled substances need special licenses from both federal and state governments.
Prescription medication overdose is an increasing problem. Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes. In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals.
Teenagers are at particular risk. They obtain the pharmaceuticals from friends and relatives, sometimes without the person knowing. (What’s in your medicine cabinet?) The good news is that teens as a group are less likely to die of an overdose since adults abuse drugs at a greater rate.
Current estimates show that controlled substances comprise 12 percent of all prescriptions made each year. Every year a greater number of prescriptions are sent electronically directly to the pharmacy, more than 75% in most states. At this time, we cannot use e-prescribing for controlled medications. Prescriptions are printed or hand-written on tamper-proof paper using precise metrics. This is annoying to the prescriber but can be a real burden to the patient who needs medication.
Fact Sheet on drug overdoses.
The science behind drug abuse.