West Virginia Found to Have Highest Rate of Prescription Drug Use

Several national studies have documented the growing surge of prescription drug abuse that has exploded in recent years. In a more precise regional study, the health care information company SDI Health LLC has found West Virginia to be home to the highest rate of prescription drug use in the United States. 

Prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in recent years, affecting Americans of both genders, and all ages and demographics. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), treatment admissions for prescription drug abuse had increased by 400% within the past decade, and hospital emergency department visits related to prescription drug misuse rose by 111% in four years. More than half of Americans who abuse prescription drugs received the medications from a friend or family member.

As reported by Forbes, West Virginia was found to have an 18.4 per capita rate of retail prescription drug filled in 2009. The national per capita rate, on the other hand, is at 11.6 prescriptions. A year prior, Forbes also reported that West Virginia contained the highest rate of prescription drug utilization. Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Arkansas composed the remainder of the top five states for prescription drug use, all of which contained rates significantly higher than the national average, according to the study.

The high level of prescription drug use may be attributed to West Virginians’ greater proportion of serious health complications among its population. For example, the adult population in West Virginia was found to have an obesity rate of 68%, whereas the national average in 60.8%. Furthermore, 229.4 among 100,000 West Virginian adults have heart disease, compared to the national average at 190.9 per 100,000. About 12.3% of West Virginian adults have diabetes, as opposed to 8.3% nationwide.

Many of these residents have comorbid disorders, requiring the use of multiple medications by one individual, according to the state Bureau for Medical Services. Even though individuals with more than one mental, physical, or behavioral condition may require several medications, some individuals fail to see the danger involved in combining multiple (and highly potent) legal drugs. In addiction, West Virginia is home to some of the top regions for illicit substance abuse and tobacco/cigarette use among the nation, according to SAMHSA.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that 27% of West Virginian adults are smokers. Moreover, the CDC states that 30% of West Virginians have poor mental health and almost 20% have a disability (either mental or physical conditions). The misuse of prescription medications that are intended for treating many health conditions has become the leading cause of prescription drug abuse—making prescription pain reliever medications one of the leading abused substances nationwide, second only to marijuana.

Within the U.S., prescription drug purchases were found to cost Americans $234.1 billion in 2008, a six-fold increase from the bill in 1990 ($40.3 billion), reports the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Similarly, the amount of dispensed prescription drugs rose from 2.8 billion in 1999 to 3.9 billion in 2009, a 39% increase. While legal drugs are intended to help treat serious health conditions or alleviate pain, they do have the potential for abuse, or over-use. Many individuals tend to seek medications to cure their conditions, when instead they should have made effective lifestyle changes to improve their health and health care costs. Reliance on prescription drugs have grown to historic levels, exceeding the rate of the nation’s population growth.

Source: Forbes, Nathalie Tadena, America's Most Medicated State? West Virginia, August 16, 2010


Posted on August 17th, 2010

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