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Despite several different efforts over the past few years to curb prescription drug abuse, the problem is still quite large in magnitude. There have been a few state and federal laws passed and implemented for the purpose of mitigating the damages of addiction and dependency to drugs. The numbers of people that are using prescription drugs outside their medical purpose are quite staggering. According to the 2014 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), “An estimated 6.5 million people reported nonmedical use of psychotherapeutic drugs in the past month, including 4.3 million nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers.” While these numbers are for our nation alone, the abuse of prescription medications is also a worldwide issue.
A federal legislation was recently passed, titled the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Some of the points that CARA emphasizes are prevention and education, expanded availability of naloxone to authorities and first responders, and evidence-based treatment for those who are incarcerated. While this legislative effort is absolutely a positive step in the proper direction, it also is focused mostly upon those already addicted, and does not focus much on the source of the substances.
Overprescription: A Contribution to the Addiction Epidemic
The reality is that many people are ending up addicted to prescription medications due to having needed them medically at one point. They then are kept on them for too long of a duration or end up using too much. According to a presentation to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control by Nora D. Volkow, M.D., “The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone products) have escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with the United States being their biggest consumer globally, and accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet).” With this magnitude of prescribing in the U.S., the fact that we also have higher amounts of those addicted to these drugs is no surprise.
This rests a large portion of responsibility upon physicians who are prescribing these medications. The fact is that many people are being continually prescribed these medications by their doctors for too long a period of time. This in general can lead to them physically building up a dependency to the drug outside of simple pain management. This is not to say that every single physician is doing this, but there are many that are, whether this is due to neglect, or simple unawareness of actual best practices of prescription. The habits, practices and adjudication used for the prescribing of these types of medications are often developed by newer doctors during their residency or professional school. As they do not necessarily have the breadth of experience in this field, they look to more experienced doctors and attendants and tend to be influenced by their practices.
The Progression to Harder Drugs
A sad truth of this epidemic is that many of these individuals who become addicted to certain prescription meds progress on to harder drugs. This mainly lies in the realm of prescription opiates, more colloquially known as painkillers. Painkillers, being opiates, are in the same family as heroin. Meaning, they can get the same or very similar effects when using heroin. Due to heroin being more readily available and less expensive, many often end up moving on to use heroin in lieu of painkillers.
Legislation plays an important role in helping to prevent and mitigate the use and distribution of drugs both illicit and legal. But while legislation has its part in the process, doctors also have a critical position that they must use positively. Doctors are the first gate in the use of prescription medications and must function as such. Doctors must be vigilant in monitoring and reviewing their patients. They must know how to look for signs of addiction, any history of addiction, and any previous doctor’s adjudication with that particular patient. All of these factors must be reviewed in the initial prescribing of these medications, as well as the continuation of their prescription.
When You or A Loved One Are Struggling With an Addiction
An individual struggling with addiction can sometimes feel quite alone in the world, but there is help out there. We are here to help individuals find a treatment center that will fit everything they need to overcome addiction, and we have done this successfully for many people. Our advisors are knowledgeable and familiar in the different treatment types and treatment centers across the country. This allows us to be able to help find a great fit in a rehab center for you or your loved one. Take the first steps toward sobriety and give us a call today.