Date of Award

January 2004

Degree Type

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Derek J. Paulsen

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Peter B. Kraska

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Kenneth D. Tunnell

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


This research attempts to gain better insight into one of the new epidemics in American society. This American epidemic, which started in the very late 1990's, is prescription drug abuse. This new epidemic not only affects the medical industry, but the criminal justice community as well. Further, in terms of prescription narcotics, primary research and media coverage into this topic revealed that numerous rural areas of Appalachia were greatly affected by this new problem. Even though this epidemic concerns numerous prescription drugs, the mass media, law enforcement (including the Drug Enforcement Agency), and academics, however, have focused only on one drug in particular, OxyContin, which is not the only widely abused prescription drug. This research attempts to set this misconception straight and explain the realities of prescription drug abuse. This is accomplished from survey results of pharmacists and other data gathering methods, such as reviewing government surveys, government publications, the academic literature, and the written media. The data obtained from these methods is then utilized to discuss the nature and extent of prescription drug abuse and other important topics, such as causes of abuse, ways to prevent abuse, issues of enforcement and investigation, and policy directions. Through the unique perspective of pharmacists and the other data gathered in this research, the research illustrates that "prescription drug abuse is not a new problem, but one that deserves a renewed attention" (Leshner, 2001, p. 1; as cited in National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2001, p.l).