Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction on the Rise

Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction on the Rise

With legends like Michael Jackson are dying due to prescription drug use, the United States is again becoming acutely aware of the prescription drug problem that exists. Approximately fifty million Americans, which include the teenage population, have utilized prescription drugs for uses that are not medical related.

In 2007 a survey was conducted that found prescription drug use had risen by twelve percent among young adults. Use of street drugs which include cocaine and methamphetamines have actually decreased.

Why the spike in pill popping?

Prescription drug abuse has gone up for a variety of reasons. There are two main factors involved in substance abuse of prescription drug use:

  • Availability
  • They’re not that dangerous

Let’s first look at availability. Prescription drugs are easy to get to. They can be in a friend’s or parent’s medicine cabinet and popping one or two pills without anyone knowing about it is quite easy. Now the reason that availability has gone up is due to an increase in prescriptions written by doctors and physicians in the United States. From 1997 to 2007, seventy two percent more prescriptions have been written by prescribers. These reasons can vary from patients asking for medication more readily and the possibility that physicians are prescribing more due to a move towards prescription pill use for all problems whether they are accurate problems or not.

The second factor is the incorrect assumption that prescription pill use is not that big of a deal. People seem to feel that because these pills are prescribed by a physician and can be found in a medicine cabinet then they are ok. The problem with this assumption is that prescription drug use is just as dangerous as using street drugs.

Three types of drug categories are utilized more than others on the market. They are as follows:

  1. Painkillers: Often used after people has suffered a trauma or undergone surgery. Examples of painkillers are the following:
    • Codeine
    • Oxycodone
    • Morphine
  2. Sedatives: Are used to treat sleep disorders or anxiety, in some instances these are also used for depression. Examples of sedatives are the following:
    • Valium
    • Librium
    • Xanax
  3. Stimulants- used to treat ADD/ADHD, used as weight loss aids or to treat narcolepsy. Examples of stimulants are the following:
    • Ritalin
    • Adderall
    • Dexedrine

Painkillers are used more than any of the other types of prescription drugs available commercially. The national survey conducted in 2007 stated that over fifty percent of inpiduals who obtained prescription drugs did so by swapping with their friends. Another popular route for obtaining prescription drugs is from internet pharmacies. Given the popularity of such sites, the government is cracking down on such practices.

An Act inspired by Ryan

In 2001 Ryan obtained vicodin from an online site for back pain. Ryan was an 18 year old who was considered a good kid by all. The website from which he obtained the medication never saw a valid prescription (which is the only way prescription drugs should be given) and no doctor ever saw Ryan. Due to Ryan Haight’s experience, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that addressed how Ryan was able to get the prescription medication. This bill was passed in 2008 and the purpose is to make sure that physicians come face to face with their patients.

Pharmacies are being held accountable for truthful information as to physical location and license numbers of pharmacists. The Ryan Haight Act also makes it illegal to use the internet as a method by which you can advertise the illegal sale of a controlled substance. State attorneys can prosecute these acts more easily than prior to the 2008 act and penalties for violation of the act have been increased to up to twenty years in prison.

Combating the Increase in Prescription Drug Use

In addition to awareness on the part of the government, making sure that prescription pill use does not spiral further out of control, it is the job of family and friends to help minimize drug abuse from spiraling out of control. Paying attention to the details is the way to make sure that what may be use of vicodin for back pain, as in Ryan’s case, does not turn into a major issue. If one does not feel like he or she can be of absolute help to that friend or loved one that is having issues with drug use, it is always best to get the help of a professional.

Prescription drug use is treated like other substance abuse problems and inpatient services may be required. Outpatient services can also be utilized. The person who should decide which type of treatment is correct, should be someone who is well versed in these types of issues. The take away message is just because a doctor prescribes these medications, does not make them better than marijuana or cocaine.

Rachel Hayon, BSN, MPH, RN

McKenna, C. Ryan Haight Act will Require Tighter Restrictions on Internet Pharmacies. 2 October 2008 Retrieved 2010-01-05
Thompson, D. In U.S., Prescription Drug Abuse Is Growing 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2010-01-03

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