Leading anti-drug groups, which for years have been focusing their efforts on illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, are now turning their attention to the rising problem of prescription drug abuse.

The New York Times reports that the Bush administration is leading the effort to sound the alarm. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has for the first time told federal agencies with anti-drug programs to develop new strategies to combat prescription drugs' abuse and illegal marketing, the paper reports.

"We don't want to wait until we get what we had with the crack epidemic," John P. Walters, the nation's "drug czar," told the Times. "Hopefully we're a little bit earlier in the process."

An University of Michigan survey found that, between 2002 and 2003, the non-medical use of prescription drugs rose among students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades while the use of illegal drugs dropped 11 percent, according to the Times.

Some experts told the paper that the effort should have begun years ago, but that OxyContin abuse and Rush Limbaugh's legal woes with his admitted problem put the issue in the spotlight.
  • Drug Facts
  • Codeine is the most widely used, naturally occurring narcotic in medical treatment in the world.
  • The human body converts codeine into morphine during digestion.
  • Codeine's common medical uses include relief of mild to moderate pain (eg arthralgia, back pain, bone pain, dental pain, headache, migraine, myalgia and surgical pain), relief of non-productive (dry) cough, and relief of diarrhea.
  • When injected, 120mg of codeine phosphate produces an analgesic response equivalent to that from 10mg of morphine.
  • Codeine is very dangerous to people with chronic heart failure, advanced respiratory insufficiency, or bronchial asthma.