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Waging War On Prescription Drug Abuse

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We live in a world of quick fixes ― whether it be a fix for weight loss or even mental well-being. But for quite some time now, the quick fix culture has become especially prominent within the medical industry, with prescription drugs being widely prescribed as an instant cure-all.

When medication is prescribed according to a patient’s pathology and taken as per the instructions given by a doctor, prescription meds can be incredibly beneficial. However, the non-medical use of prescription drugs – that is, the consumption by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed – is misuse and can lead to various safety issues.

Used for an unintended purpose and in the wrong way, prescription meds can be dangerous, addictive and even deadly.

Prescription drug abuse is steadily increasing in the United States. Why is this the case? Although there’s no unanimous answer, it’s thought that because drugs are readily available to more people, the opportunity for people to abuse them has increased. Doctors are also writing more prescriptions than ever before – especially for opioids, Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants and stimulants, which we’ll get onto later. Additionally, the internet makes it easier than ever to go online and get these drugs – even for children, teens, and young adults.

But if we dig a little deeper, it could be said that the issue is rooted in belief systems: many teenagers and young adults who get involved with prescription drugs view them as safe since they were prescribed by a doctor. There’s also the attitude that taking someone else’s medication – even when used for a legitimate medical complaint – isn’t deemed as abusive. This partly explains why the incidences of swapping medicine or those who admit to taking medicine either prescribed for someone else has grown to 1 in every 5 Americans.

Worryingly most obtained the drugs for free from a friend or relative.

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Some medications can affect a person’s judgement and have mind-altering properties which, used recreationally, can lead to their abuse. In fact, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most abused prescription drugs are grouped into three classes of medication:

1. Opioids – Prescribed to treat pain. Examples: hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin®), oxycodone(e.g., OxyContin®), morphine and codeine.

2. CNS Depressants (this category includes tranquilisers, sedatives, and hypnotics) – Used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Examples: Diazepam (Valium) and Alprazolam (Xanax).

3. Stimulants – Most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples: Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) and Amphetamines (Adderall).

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that increases in prescription drug misuse over the last decade are reflected in increased emergency room visits, overdose deaths associated with prescription drugs, and treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders. Among those who reported past-year non-medical use of a prescription drug, nearly 12 percent met criteria for prescription drug use disorder.

This global problem is wide-reaching: the abuse of and addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers affect the health, social and economic welfare of all societies. It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. The consequences of this abuse have been devastating and are on the rise. There is also growing evidence to suggest a relationship between increased non-medical use of opioid analgesics and heroin abuse in the United States.

Facts about prescription drug abuse in the United States

- Many teens and young adults mistakenly believe prescription drugs are safer than other street drugs.

- After marijuana and alcohol, the most common drugs teens are using/misusing are prescription medications.

- Among people 18-22, full-time college students are twice as likely to use a stimulant for non-medical reasons compared to those who aren’t in college or are going to college part-time.

- Approximately 1 in 5 teens reported abusing or misusing a prescription drug.

To address the complex problem of prescription abuse we must consider the delicate nature of this phenomenon: scientific insight must strike the right balance between confronting the negative impact of prescription drug abuse on health and mortality, and preserving the fundamental role played by prescription medicines. Maximum healing, reducing human suffering and providing relief must be balanced with, while minimising the associated risks and adverse effects prescription drug abuse can have.

If you believe that a family member or close friend is abusing prescription drugs, the best thing you can do is to get them the help they need via centres such as the health care reform. Alternatively, reach out to your doctor and see if they can give you a referral for a high-quality treatment facility. Recovery from prescription drug abuse is a rocky road, but with the support of loved ones and the right rehabilitation institutions, it is possible to see light at the end of the tunnel.

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