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Are Prescription Drugs Replacing Street Drugs?

After being in the field of addiction for over 15 years, I have noticed a horrifying tendency taking place with regards to addiction to drugs, which is definitely not re-assuring. There was a shift that slowly but surely took place over the last 10 years with the type of drugs used and abused in society.

Statistics Trend

When I started in the field of addiction in 2000, we were getting calls for people addicted to prescription medications on an average of 5% compared to street drugs and alcohol abuse. Most of them were sleeping pills (benzodiazepines) and some painkillers. There were just a few clinics that were able to take someone off these medications safely.

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The street drugs that were popular at that time were cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and Methamphetamine. There were also the club drugs such as GHB, ecstasy, etc. For most of these drugs, except for heroin, the detox process can usually be done in a regular detox without medical staff.

Here are some factual statistics compiled by our helpline with people referred to rehab clinics over the last seven years. We are categorizing by type of drugs with street drugs and prescribed medication. Alcohol is compiled separately.


These statistics were compiled both in the US and Canada with over 7000 referrals made to rehab facilities.


These statistics are very alarming for a few reasons:

  1. Getting someone off medication needs more specialized medical staff.
  2. Addicts cannot really get off of a prescribed medication without possible health consequences.
  3. A lot of the people addicted to medication are not the addicted “type” of person that has a predisposition to any addiction to drugs or alcohol. They were prescribed these medications for a physical problem and then got addicted to it and cannot quit on their own.
  4. Prescribed medication (painkillers and benzodiazepine Definition of the word benzodiazepine ) are the most addictive drugs. It does not take long to start feeling the psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms of such medication.

After looking at some of the causes of such an alarming trend, I think the government should look at a few things to improve this problem.

  1. Doctors should be trained in detecting patients susceptible to getting addicted to such medications. Furthermore, they should be more aware of the potentially addictive effects of these medications.
  2. Less addictive drugs should be tried (when possible) to see if it would suit the patient.
  3. Alternative solutions should be looked into, such as pain management clinics, counseling for a sleep disorder, etc.
  4. This last one is probably a “dream”, but the government or pharmaceutical companies should not give any “commissions” to doctors when they prescribe addictive medications. Such measures would make sure that doctors would keep ethical conduct with regards to such prescriptions.


These statistics were not made with surveys. They were made with actual people struggling with an addiction problem. Our helpline talks to 10 times more people on average, but we wanted to stick with written information that we could compile. It is an even worst scenario with everyone we talk to, but we wanted to stay with the truth and the facts, instead of just saying how we think it is.

If no measures are taken, the situation of addiction could get worse than ever in history.


marcel gemme author

Marcel Gemme

More Info

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people.

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