, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 21-36
Date: 23 Aug 2012

Reducing the Abuse Potential of Controlled Substances

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Prescription drugs, principally opioid analgesics, now account for more fatal drug overdoses in the US than heroin and cocaine. Experts offer several theories for this, including the introduction within the past decade of high dosage, extended-release drug formulations that have proven easy to manipulate for abuse purposes. At the same time, the prescribing of immediate- and extended-release pain relievers — the most highly abused category of prescription drugs — has increased significantly. Regulatory agencies, in turn, have increased their oversight of prescribers, dispensers and manufacturers of controlled substances. For its part, the pharmaceutical industry has shown a modest but growing interest in developing abuse-deterrent drugs. In this article, we review the progress being made through the use of technology and design in mitigating the abuse potential of currently marketed and newly approved drugs, as well as several pipeline candidates. We discuss obstacles facing the future of this novel approach to reducing prescription drug abuse and conclude with policy recommendations intended to encourage the development of abuse-deterrent drugs.