Current Drug Issues
The drug issue I have chosen to discuss is the abuse of prescription drugs. Prescription
drug abuse is said to be more deadly than heroin or cocaine these days. Since 1999 the deaths
from prescription medications have quadrupled. The CDC or Center for Disease Control and
Prevention has said that the sales for pain killers since then have also quadrupled. In 2010 there
were enough pain killers prescribed to medicate every American for an entire month. This is very
scary. Over six million people suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders and at least fifty
people die everyday from prescription drug overdose.
$53.4 billion is spent on the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs due to the loss of
productivity, medical costs and criminal justice costs. Although, only one out of every ten
Americans with a drug abuse problem are treated. Some of the prescriptions that are abused
most often include, Ativan, Halcion, Valium, Xanax, Ambien, Fentanyl, Codeine,
Methadone,Oxycontin and some others within the same classification. Commonly they are
snorted, injected or swallowed. All of these make you drowsy, lower your blood pressure, and
can cause coma or death if abused. Some others like Adderal, Conserta, Ritalin cause
increased energy, rapid breathing, paranoia and weight loss. These are also snorted, injected,
and swallowed but they are also sometimes smoked. Prescription drug abuse does not point to
anyone of any certain age or gender. Although one in five teenagers have tried getting high with
prescription drugs. It is typical to see high school and college students using Adderal to stay
awake, they do end up abusing it, even when that was not their initial intention, then they become
addicted. People that have had surgeries or chronic pain will take their medication as directed,
then some end up abusing it because it calms them or makes them feel better. Anyone of any age can be at risk to abuse a drug. Parents use to make accusations that the kids with long hair,
tattoos, leather pants, bell bottoms were the kids using drugs, there is no particular person who
abuses prescription medications, it could be your child, sibling or even your parent.
Some studies were done and even men abuse Viagra, they want to enhance their sexual
performance, they do not need it, they just use it. Sometimes these same men mix the Viagra
with Ecstasy which alters their judgement. Studies have found that men that are having sex with
other men are having unprotected sex six times more often than non-users because of the
altering drug effects.
In 2005 4.4 million teenagers from the age of 12 to 17 admitted to abusing prescription
pain medications. 2.3 million abused prescriptions like Adderal and Ritalin, 2.2 million abused
over the counter medications such as cough syrup. First time prescription medication abuse
begins at the age of 13. Many teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal
drugs. Around 70% of teens say that their home medicine cabinet is where they get these drugs.
Which is why we need to educate our children.
Over 45% of deaths because of overdosing is from depressants and opioids. In the US it
was found that African-American neighborhoods were found to have a higher amount of deaths
because of overdosing. In the last 10 years it has been found that white neighborhoods have
more deaths because of overdose.
In 2007 the DEA found that Fentanyl, because of the drug abuse caused over 1,000
deaths. Fentanyl is 30-50% more powerful than heroin. Also in 2007 2.5 million Americans
abused prescription drugs for the first time, 2.1 million Americans used marijuana for the first
Prescription painkillers interfere with a person’s nervous system which is where the
transmission of nerve signals perceive the pain. It not only blocks the pain but it also produces a
“high”. A few of these that are commonly abused are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and meperidine.
These are generic names for Lortab, Percocet, Roxicet, Demerol, Dilaudid, and Vicodin. These
are known to be called drug store heroin. These opioid painkillers produce a short-lived euphoria,
even though they are very addictive. The long-term use of painkillers lead to dependence so if
you abruptly quit taking them you may have withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms
are nausea, vomitting, insomnia, restlessness, muscle and bone pain.
You may not realize that taking any medication differently than how your doctor has
prescribed it, is prescription drug abuse. It sometimes just begins as taking it every two hours
rather than every four, or you have had a medication prescribed to you but you take your friends.
this is all abuse. In Cache County, Utah there was a newspaper article written in January of 2010
about the prescription abuse that goes on. One of the Drug Enforcement officers for Logan City
describes it being unlawful to not disclose prescription information to a doctor or pharmacy about
all the medications you are taking. The officer also mentioned he has even arrested people who
have intentionally hurt themselves just so they could go to the emergency room to get painkillers.
In Utah more people died from prescription drug use than traffic accidents. Some people
are self diagnosing, others are mixing medications with alcohol. Prescriptions if taken as
directed help many people, they help people get through surgeries, or if someone has chronic
pain it helps them to lead productive lives. People should read all the information their
pharmacist gives them about their prescription. This tells you what medications will interact with
others, how and when to take the medication and what signs or symptoms to watch for that may
be dangerous. There was a study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human
Services, Utah led the US in the highest prescription abuse. 6.5 percent of those were using
medications without a prescription. Lortab sells from between $3 and $5 a pill. An employee for
the Utah Department of Health described the average medication abuser as “40 years old,
overweight, taking a prescription drug. Data also shows that Utah’s retail supply of prescription
painkillers is higher than the US standard. One Utah Law Enforcement Agent stated that
prescription drug abuse is different than any other drug addiction. Utah formed a strike force to
help reduce the availability of prescription drug abuse and to educate people about the risks of
prescription drugs. Utah has also passed a law that requires doctors to take continuing medical
education courses on controlled substance prescribing for each licensing period. The database
in Utah that monitors prescription drugs is in real time now, meaning you can see how things are
going on right now, is making doctor shopping more difficult for patients. “Doctor Shopping” is
when people go to multiple doctors and multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions so they can get
more than what is needed. If paper prescriptions were completely done away with this would
also help the prescription drug abuse as well, many doctors have cut down on this. Utah is
ahead of many states on the abuse because they have been looking into it for years. This
database can detect suspicious activity. Either a high number of prescriptions to the same
person or multiple doctors caring for the same patient. If the database is triggered it will
automatically send out a letter, “doctor shopper letters” to doctors letting them know that their
patient may be violating Utah laws.
Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff explains how he found it was easy to become addicted.
He was in a motorcycle accident, crushing his leg, he had multiple surgeries. He explains how
one night he was in a lot of pain from his leg and planned on taking a pain pill. He was taking
10mg of Oxycontin, he came home and his wife had thrown them all out. Mark felt like he
really needed it, then he realized what an addict goes through.
I have personally known quite a few people, my own family members and friends who
have abused prescription drugs. I had a family member break into my apartment and steal my
prescription of Xanax. I never realized that it was something that was worth anything to anyone
other than myself. I have had panic attacks for about 15 years, I have taken Xanax and similiar
prescription drugs for this, I never had a clue they could be worth $20.00 a pill to someone. It
amazed me that someone, a family member could do this and then admit it. I had a hip fracture
and was given Percocet, it made me nauseas so I only took one if I was in a whole lot of pain,
meaning the pain was worse than vomitting. A friend of mine knew I was taking these and came
to my home and was so helpful and stayed with me and helped me and then stole the bottle of
percocet. No one else had been in my home, I knew where I had them and they disappeared, I
never wanted to accuse her, so I never said a thing. Later in the week she took me to my doctor
appointment and there in her car was my prescription bottle, completely empty. I still never
mentioned it to her, within a few weeks she was arrested, she had stolen numerous bottles of
pills from numerous people and had been writing her own prescriptions on a prescription pad
she had stolen. She has Lupus and had become addicted to pain pills. I did not know she had
this problem and until she was in drug court with multiple charges she had not told me. When
she finally admitted it, is when she finally got the help she needed. It is scary to see people close
to you go through things like this, I am glad there are many programs to help though.