Whether due to pill mills or insatiable appetite, prescription drug use has soared in the United States. At the same time, drug overdoses and treatment admissions for heroin users who got their start using other opiates (like prescription opiates) have also spiked. Using six datasets, I’ve tried to give a glimpse into the problem.
Not all of these datasets are created equal. The drug seizure data, in particular, is problematic — as it’s culled from news reports. That sort of data is, at best, anecdotal. Frankly, I see the greatest value of that set as a way to compare the volume of reports generated for different drugs. In other words, it helps to show just how much attention various substances are receiving in the news.
I like this project, and I think it sheds light on a problem that is receiving plenty of attention, but little objective examination. Hard data on prescription drug abuse is very hard to come by. I know this – because putting this project together was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.