People usually don’t think that taking prescription medication, which is prescribed by a doctor, can create a drug problem that could affect their lives for years to come. Prescription drug abuse is an ever growing problem in the United States because many people are addicted to prescription drugs without even knowing how or why they are addicted. The number of people addicted to prescription drugs has risen substantially throughout the years. “About 6.2 million Americans, including disproportionately high numbers of young people and the elderly, abuse prescription drugs, according to government data released in September. More than 14.5 million people report they’ve taken such drug for non-medical purposes during the past year” (Murray, 110-17). With these numbers consistently on the rise, it is predicted that many more Americans will be addicted to prescription drugs in the years to follow.
Prescription drug abuse affects much type of people in the United States. Teenagers all the way to senior citizens are the type of people that are addicted to prescription drugs. Teenagers often get addicted to prescription drugs when they take a medication that makes them feel good. “At colleges across the country, students taking pills they’ve sneaked from home, tossing them into bowls and swallowing handfuls with a chug of beer or a sip of a margarita. It’s called pharming for the pharmaceuticals ingested” (Murray, 110-17). Without even realizing that their fun actions may cause a lethal drug interaction in their bodies these college students are thinking of their good time before their lives. “The 2002 National Survey on dug use and health is conducted by the subsistence abuse and mental health services administration. This year, its findings include that current illicit drug use among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 is the highest, with over 20% of this group using drugs” (Murray, 110-17).
Many teenagers believe that prescription drugs are not illegal so the use of them can not be even if it is abuse. People under 18 have shown the same signs of addiction to prescription drugs. According to the same study “the group between the ages of 12 and 17 also showed significant use, with 11.6% of that population currently using illicit drugs” (Henderson, 58-60). Teenagers often get addicted to prescription drugs because of the access to them in their homes; often a parent is using the prescription for a medical reason. Senior citizens are often addicted to prescription drugs due to the need for the older generation to rely on powerful pain killers and other prescription drugs. “Researchers found that single woman age 35 and older are at increasing risk of abusing narcotic analgesics, their finding were published in the American Journal of Public Health” (Starr, 41). With this information Prescription drug abusers are diverse in their age and race.
Celebrities have also brought a lot of attention to the world of prescription drug abuse. “Rush Limbaugh turned a spotlight on the epidemic this month when he admitted being hooked on prescription painkillers and told his radio audience he intended to get help” (Murray, 110-17). By admitting his addiction to the world on his radio show he made people realize that the most conservative of celebrities can also become addicted to prescription drugs. Many other celebrities have admitted to their on going prescription drug use, Such as Mathew Perry, “was his usually breezy, delightfully flip self, much like Chandler Bing, the role he plays on Friends” (Starr, 41).
Prescription drug abuse has no discrimination; abuse affects many people no matter the social class. People often think only the upper class have an addiction to prescription drugs, due to the high costs of the drugs themselves. Well, that is not the case many prescription drug users are lower class in rural areas. Prescription drug abuse was “initially a problem in rural states, it is now a concern for urban and suburban localities as well” (Murray, 110-17). Oxycontin a power prescription pain killer has “been called “hillbilly heroin” because its abuse has appeared in areas such as rural Maine and Kentucky” (Murray, 110-17). Often people associate any type of drug abuse with the lower uneducated class. However, “Tranquilizers are more likely to be abused by woman, whites, people with at least a high-school education, those in poor health and those who drink alcohol daily” (Henderson, 58-60). The outbreak of prescription drug abuse has gone from rural areas to urban areas has changed the target type and the stereotype of the prescription drug abuser.
Many people feel that prescription drug abuse is not a serious drug problem. Because prescriptions have to be prescribed by a licensed doctor people do not realize this to be abuse. Often times doctors over prescribe medications to people that may develop a dependence on the prescription drug itself. Patients often feel that “doctors are up there on a pedestal, even if what they prescribe is beyond the manufacture’s guidelines” (Peterson, A3). A patient usually doesn’t question a doctor on the dosages of the medication that they are receiving; the doctor should know what’s best right? Doctors often feel pressure from their patient, when a person comes to them in great pain the doctors want nothing more than to help the person. But often times the powerful pain killers that might alleviate the patients pain can send then into abuse.
Many prescription drugs that people are addicted to can stop the heart and cause an overdose that may cause death. Prescription drugs can cause death when not taken in the doses that they were intended to. “Prescription and over the-counter drugs that are misused can have serious physical and psychological effects including tremors, hallucinations, depression, false euphoria, heat palpitations, and even death” (Starr, 41). Every year hospitals and morgues are bombarded with people that have intentionally or accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs. Though many people do not intend to overdose they often do by building up immunity to the drug and needing high dosages. When a drug that is meant for a time release administration is introduced to the brain so quickly it can become fatal in just once dose. “The intravenous use of barbiturates common in the drug subcultures often led to abscesses, destruction of tissue around the injection site and even death, since the margin between the desired effect and overdose is very narrow” (Starr, 41). With this in mind people that are addicted to prescription drugs often can not function without their daily dose of medicine, and often overdose because of that reason.
Prescription drugs are getting easier and easier to get and become addicted to. Internet sales of prescription drugs don’t often require any doctor verification to purchase the drugs which can be sent to the home. Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a news conference “thousands of web sites pop up regularly offering narcotic medications, often without a prescription or a visit to a doctor” (Peterson, A3). When people that are addicted to prescription drugs see this it temps them, and they realize that the drugs are a lot easier to get.
By not needing a doctor’s approval addicts often can get these prescription drugs delivered right to there door with no obligation to follow up with a doctor. A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University “identified 495 web sites advertising controlled prescription drugs during a one week analysis. Of those 157 were sites that sold opiod-based drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Darvon. Only six percent of the sites selling drugs required a prescription, the study found, and none took steps to prevent the sale of drugs to children” (Murray, 110-17). Since many of these web sites are untraceable it is hard for law enforcement to crack down on these types of prescription drug sales.
Doctors often prescribe these drugs to patients that are addicted to them without asking any background information. Since doctors are not asking their patients the appropriate questions many of the doctors prescribe medication to addictive personality patients. “A good rapport between doctor and patient can make it easier to discuss problems that come up, and health-care professionals should carefully monitor patients who take potentially addictive medication” (Peterson, A3). Good rapport would help patient’s feel more comfortable with talking to their doctor about their potentially dangerous abuse habit. This could cause many patients to be misdiagnosed with their abuse problem and could not speak freely about it in a comfortable manner. “Physician supervision and appropriate use is critical for all prescription drugs. Doctors consider a patient’s diagnosis and whether non-addictive treatments should be considered first” (Starr, 41). For many this would be an affective way for people with a potentially addictive personality to avoid the hardships of being addicted to prescription drugs.
Many abusers of prescription drugs find it easy access by purchasing them on the street or finding other ways to get them. There are many ways that prescription drug abusers are getting prescription drugs. Patients often fool doctors into thinking they have a painful condition that would require them to prescribe a powerful pain reliever. “In some cases “patients” concurrently receive prescriptions from multiple doctors a practice known as “doctor shopping” (Henderson, 58-60). With addicts “doctor shopping” it is hard for professionals to tell just how many doctors one person might have. Hospitals and clinics don’t usually share patient’s charts when they are not connected in some way. There is also no way to tell if a person has gone to another doctor and received a prescription for an addictive substance.
Sleeping pills can also be a powerful prescription drug that many become addicted to. Sleeping pills also known as tranquilizers can have an addicted affect on the people that are using them. Many celebrities are addicted to sleeping pills; when a person can not sleep they often take a pill to help them fall asleep. When the body starts to build up some resistance to the medication the dosage is often upped not by a doctor but the patient themselves. This causes them to take more pills and an addiction is started. A simple prescription to help a person get a good night sleep can turn into an addiction that is out of control.
Many people think that they con not function unless they have the drug that they are addicted to. “Physical dependence , which is sometimes unavoidable develops when an individual is exposed to a drug at a high enough dose for long enough that the body adapts and develops a tolerance for the drug” (Starr, 41).Since the addiction is so extensive many people will go through great lengths to get the drug that they think they can’t live without. Many people will risk getting into trouble with the law and trying to fool pharmacies into giving them a prescribed drug. People often ask the pharmacies “not to bill their insurance companies, saying that they just want to pay cash for them” (Starr, 41).
Companies that make additive pain killers and other addictive drugs are trying to help with the problem of prescription drug abuse. The makers of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, are trying to help with the prescription drug addiction in America. “To improve education about Oxycontin Purdue Pharma conducts seminars and teleconferences for physicians and stated a pilot program in several states that provides a prescription drug curriculum in high schools” (Henderson, 58-60). Since the company makes one of the most abuses prescription drugs on there on the market today, it is only fair that they contribute to the education of not misusing their product. “Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $2 million to develop the software after a year long probe into the companies marketing of the drug which has been linked to nationwide reports of abuse, addiction, and overdose deaths” (Peterson, A3).
Many feel that this is just a ploy by the companies to relinquish the responsibility of their part with prescription drug abuse. Not only have some companies donated software and other items to help with the education of prescription drug abuse. Purdue Pharma has also been helping doctors and patients with abuse, “the company also provides tamper-proof prescription pads to some 3000 physicians to prevent forgeries” (Henderson, 58-60). With this the company is showing that they know that their product can cause addiction and by helping the public whether through education or donations will help everyone on the long run with the problem of prescription drug abuse. Pharmacies have enough knowledge of what they are handing out to know when a person is a “regular” and has several prescriptions from different doctors. Unfortunately that is why many addicts are getting what they need through the internet.
Henderson, E.C., (2000) Understanding Addiction. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 58-60.
Murray N.D., Michael T. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: how you can benefit from diet, vitamins, minerals, herbs, exercise, and other natural methods. Rocklin, California: Prima Health, a Division of Prima Publishing. 2004: 110-17.
Peterson, M. and Meier, B., “Few States Track Prescriptions.” New York Times, NY; 2001. A3.
Starr, C., “Sensible Strategies for Controlled Substances.” Patient Care, 1998, v32 n10 p 41.