Prescription drugs are an everyday affair for many Americans. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 60 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. However, the irony is that many are steadily abusing these drugs.
According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 2000-2014, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths have increased by 137 percent since 2000, including a 200 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths.
In 2014, 61 percent of drug overdose deaths involved some type of opioid, including heroin. From 2013 to 2014, there was a jump of 14 percent in opioid overdose deaths. The staggering numbers released by the CDC on opioids have left the authorities shocked and made the country take immediate action.
Reasons for increased prescription pill dependence
People take prescription medicines for physical or mental health problems but end up getting addicted to them. A variety of factors influences the use and potential for misuse or abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. People might abuse such drugs to cope with stress and ease some mental health problems. Aging process with its physiological and other health changes, and psychosocial stressors can be some reasons for increased dependency on such drugs.
Kenneth D. Mandl, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of biomedical informatics and pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at the Boston Children’s Hospital, and his colleague Mei-Sing Ong, Ph.D., a research fellow at CHIP, said in an article, published in the Psychiatry Advisor in March 2016, “Opioid use has quadrupled in the U.S. over the past decade without a clear clinical need, and this ties to the increased availability of prescription controlled substances.”
They added that old age, females, white race, low-economic status, comorbidity of drug abuse, depression, and arthritis are some of the key drivers independently associated with prolonged use of opioids or other prescription drugs. According to them, the odds of emergency room visits or hospitalization due to prolonged use of opioids has increased by 60 percent.
Prescription opioid abuse: real scenario
Opioids are the most commonly abused drugs. Many find these drugs over-the-counter without a prescription. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights some facts about the dangers of opioid abuse:
- Opioids cause short-term euphoria making it a plausible choice for abuse.
- When taken with alcohol, opioids can reduce the heart rate and can cause breathlessness, leading to coma and death.
- Opioids taken during pregnancy can cause miscarriages as well as low birth weight and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
- People who inject opioids intravenously have a higher risk of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases that can come from sharing needles.
- Older adults are at a higher risk of accidentally misusing or abusing opioids as they might be taken along with other medications. Since with age there is a slower metabolization of such drugs, it tends to affect older people much more. Older adults are prescribed such medications more than young people due to their ailing health.
Possible steps to control the epidemic
Dr. Mandl and Dr. Ong advised that physicians should be extra cautious while prescribing controlled substances. They said, “Multiple providers prescribing is a risk factor that is entirely preventable with improved coordination of care and communication among providers and effective surveillance, the need for which will become increasingly urgent with the continued growth of a multidisciplinary team model of caring for patients.”
Public health practitioners can regularly do a vigilance check to identify the prescription drugs that are severely abused and its extent. They can also ascertain the demographics or the specific periods of increased abuse and carry out awareness campaigns as a part of reduction efforts. Legislation and government policies can also play an important role in addressing the problem.
The U.S. Senate approved a bill in March 2016 to fight the nation’s growing painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic. The bill authorizes funding for state and local governments, as well as schools and nonprofits, to prevent and treat prescription drug and heroin abuse.
If you or your loved one is addicted to opioids and other prescription drugs, it is time to get the right treatment. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline can help you find the best treatments in reliable facilities suiting your needs. Please chat online with our de-addiction specialists or call our 24/7 helpline at 866-450-1557 for any assistance.