Monday, February 20, 2012

Addiction and Prescription Medicine

If you go to the Centers for Disease Control website, you can find reports about the increasing numbers of people addicted to and overdosing from prescription medicine. Here’s a paragraph from an article on their site:

“In 2007, approximately 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 19 minutes. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. The increase in unintentional drug overdose death rates in recent years (Figure 1) has been driven by increased use of a class of prescription drugs called opioid analgesics (1). Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined (Figure 2) (1). In addition, for every unintentional overdose death related to an opioid analgesic, nine persons are admitted for substance abuse treatment (2), 35 visit emergency departments (3), 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report nonmedical uses of opioid analgesics (4). Implementing strategies that target those persons at greatest risk will require strong coordination and collaboration at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, as well as engagement of parents, youth influencers, health-care professionals, and policy-makers.”

In another article on the CDC site they wrote:

"Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs—more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

Overdoses involving prescription painkillers—a class of drugs that includes hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone—are a public health epidemic. These drugs are widely misused and abused. One in 20 people in the United States, ages 12 and older, used prescription painkillers nonmedically (without a prescription or just for the "high" they cause) in 2010."

We’ve all heard about famous people going to rehab for drug and alcohol problems, but clearly these problems are growing in our population at large.

What’s happening?

I had a serious operation a decade ago and was prescribed pain medications to take at home. I took a couple then moved to over-the-counter help and off of all meds as soon as I could without being too uncomfortable. I knew I could live with a little pain and that it would be finite. I had several pills left from that prescription. When I returned for another operation, although I still had pills from the first procedure, I was given another prescription. As I had several procedures within a year, I had a lot of leftover medicine. I was glad to find a place that would take them back for proper disposal.

Following the surgery, there were times when I had aches, pains or even sadness and it might have been tempting to take the leftover medicine just to stop being in pain.

I can see how it might happen that a person receives medicine for one issue, winds up taking it for another and never really copes with the second issue that might not be serious.

It’s way too easy to get too much medicine, for doctors to prescribe, pharmacists to fill and patients to take more than we need, and we need a simple way to return unused medicine so it’s not a temptation to people in the home. A problem with any drug or alcohol is that you don’t know if you have addictive tendencies until you are already trapped.

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