Among those using illicit drugs for the first time in 2007, the most popular substances were marijuana and prescription painkillers—each used by roughly the same number of Americans aged 12 and older. Non-medical use of painkillers rose 12%.
Nearly one in ten 16 to 19 year olds in the UK have abused prescription painkillers.
Misuse of painkillers represents three‑quarters of the overall problem of prescription drug abuse. The painkiller hydrocodone is the most commonly diverted and abused controlled pharmaceutical in the US.
Methadone, used in addiction treatment centres and now used by doctors as a painkiller, was found to be the cause of over half the painkiller-related deaths in the UK.
In the UK, tens of thousands of people are said to be dependent on painkillers such as Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus.
Statistics from the Republic of Ireland in May 2008 revealed that the number of people addicted to Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus, who sought treatment, had more than doubled in two years.
Doctors and rehabilitation therapists report that prescription painkiller abuse is one of the most difficult addictions to treat.