Prescription drug abuse is a growing trend in the U.S., becoming a leading factor in U.S. imprisonments.

In New York’s Staten Island, deaths from prescription drug overdoses have become so frequent that a pilot program has been created to reduce fatalities.

“Nearly 200 cops in one Staten Island precinct have been authorized to administer a drug to prescription drug overdose victims,” the New York Daily News reported. “The pilot program was sparked by the high rate of opioid abuse on Staten Island – per 100,000 residents, the top three areas for such deaths in 2011 and 2012 were on the island.”

Rural areas are facing the challenge of drug abuse as much as urban areas. Last week, the county paper for Richmond County, N.C. (pop. 46,639), revealed that an annual health assessment listed heart disease and prescription drug abuse as leading issues.

“According to the assessment, the vast majority of unintentional deaths are drug or medication related. In other words, drugs – prescribed or illegal – are being abused,” the article noted.

Observing a growing trend of heroin and painkillers abuse in the state, last week Kentucky allocated $32 million toward addressing the problem.

The Lexington Herald-Leader noted that around $19 million would be spent to establish juvenile treatment programs.

A recent story from the Prairie Public Broadcasting of western and central North Dakota cited a growing abuse of prescription drugs in the state.

Katie Cashman, communications director for the North Dakota Medical Association, told Prairie Public Broadcasting that she has heard of elementary school children coming to school with their parents’ pills and thinking it is fun to take them.

Theft of prescription drugs from medicine cabinets at real estate open houses and similar events have also become a trend, Cashman added. She then shared an incident in which painkillers were stolen during an open house following a funeral.

In a March 2013 CNN news story on the Cooke County Jail in east Tennessee, the sheriff said that more than 90 percent of the incarcerated women were imprisoned because of prescription drug abuse. On that particular night, the jail had 48 beds and 66 females.

In “Through the Door,”’s forthcoming documentary on faith and prisons, several interviewees noted this growing trend.

“If you had to choose one element of why people are in prison at the rates they are in today,” stated William Gupton, assistant commissioner of rehabilitative services at the Tennessee Department of Correction, “drug addiction, drug abuse is it.”

“For a while cocaine was ‘king,’ if you would, in the drug culture; and I think that has shifted to prescription drugs,” he added.

Anthony Metcalf, executive director of Churches Embracing Offenders in Evansville, Ind., noted, “the abuse of prescription drugs is skyrocketing in teenagers and young people because the drugs are so readily available to them.”

In his area, “the majority of crimes committed are substance related,” Metcalf revealed.

Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, recently wrote: “Two years ago we started exploring the use of prescription medications such as sleeping tablets and pain-killers. Last year about one in four people who reported receiving a prescription opioid medication such as Oxycontin or tramadol reported that they had used such a medication to ‘get high’ in the last 12 months.”

“These were not people with heroin or crack dependence that society tends to shun … but instead were people who answered our survey – typically employed and educated,” Winstock clarified. “And this group were [sic] not accessing their prescription medications from dealers but from doctors.”

Editor’s note: EthicsDaily’s forthcoming documentary, “Through the Door,” focuses on the faith community’s engagement with prisons. More information can be found at

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