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An article in the Associated Press Oct. 31, 2003, reports that according to government figures the number of Americans who begin misusing painkillers annually has almost quadrupled from 1990 to 2001. This article noted how the conservative radio commentator, Rush Limbaugh, brought this story to the forefront together with his announcement that he was addicted to pain medication and was checking himself into a treatment center.

The AP story noted the seriousness of the problem by highlighting that a majority of patients who become addicted have taken more medicine than their physicians prescribed. Furthermore, addiction can take hold quickly, within weeks, for some drugs. Based on the federal government's Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 6.2 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of men and women, misuse prescription medications of all kinds. About 4.4 million of these misuse pain relievers, taking a lot more than their prescribed amount. The rate of full-blown addiction is about 0.3 percent, but patients who don't follow their prescriptions are considered at risk. The rate of abuse has risen dramatically for such drugs. About 2.4 million Americans began misusing prescription pain relievers in 2001, almost quadrupling from 628,000 in 1990, according to the federal government's Survey on Drug Use and Health.

While Limbaugh joins a long list of celebrities who became hooked on prescription drugs, such as actress Marilyn Monroe, pop entertainer Michael Jackson, country singer Tammy Wynette and football player Brett Favre among them, the article notes that many more ordinary Americans succumb to this kind of addiction.

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