Each year, drug abuse and addiction cost taxpayers nearly $534 billion in preventable health care, law enforcement, crime, and other costs. For NIDA, the key word in this assessment is "preventable." The best approach to reducing the tremendous toll substance abuse exacts from individuals, families, and communities is to prevent the damage before it occurs.
Prescription drug abuse is the intentional use of a medication without a prescription; in a way other than as prescribed; or for the experience or feeling it causes. It is not a new problem, but one that deserves renewed attention. For although prescription drugs can be powerful allies, they also pose serious health risks related to their abuse.
Exposure to substances of abuse can affect individuals across the lifespan, starting in utero. While most pregnant women do not abuse illicit drugs, combined 2008 and 2009 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that among pregnant women ages 15 to 44, the youngest ones generally reported the greatest substance use. Also, pregnant women ages 15 to 17 had similar rates of illicit drug use (15.8 percent or 14,000 women) as women of the same age who were not pregnant (13.0 percent or 832,000 women).
We have a public health mandate to stop the devastating scourge of drug abuse and addiction afflicting this country. Translating the knowledge we have gained into new medications could revolutionize the way we treat addiction and even how we prevent drug abuse from occurring in the first place. It is a gaping need.
Thousands of individuals seeking treatment for drug abuse will benefit from the NIDA Blending Initiative, which is designed to accelerate scientific findings into clinical practice. As the leading NIH Institute studying addiction, NIDA's commitment to bridging the gap between research and practice has resulted in the development of innovative tools to put directly in the hands of front-line treatment providers at nearly the same time that research results are published in peer-reviewed journals.