A Sneaky Addiction

Addiction and the abuse of prescription drugs has become one of the largest drug problems in the world, affecting the health and social well-being of people of all ages and nationalities, and has been on the rise for the past two decades. Though many people are aware of the problem, it has become a near epidemic that begins in the doctor’s office.

Opioids, CNS (central nervous system) depressants, and stimulants are the most commonly abused among prescription drugs and they all come with the same set of problems. To focus on one that can represent the trends of all three, Opioid medications, which are highly addictive painkillers, containing hydrocodone, oxycodone, or morphine, are the most prescribed and abused legal drugs in the U.S. and its use has been steadily rising for over twenty years, as shown in the example below. Between 26.4 to 36 million people abuse opioids around the world, with about 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffering from disorders related to prescription opioid pain-killers in 2012 and about 467,000 are addicted to heroin. In 2005 opioids accounted for 38.2% of all drug overdoses.

photo: Emory University School of Law

There is not a single age group who is not affected by the use and abuse of these drugs. In 2012 over five percent of the U.S. population aged 12 years or older used opioid pain-killers in a non-medical way. Teenagers and young adults have such easy access to it that they have found ways to take it for recreation, as well as selling it to peers for income.

There are some issues within the medical industry that are not helping with this problem. One issue is that insurance companies often do not cover non-pharmaceutical interventions like acupuncture, message therapy, physical therapy, etc., making it that much easier to go straight for the medication and, for many people who can’t afford the physical or mental treatment they truly require, they depend solely on the drug to mask the pain for a long period of time, if not forever. Another issue is that many doctors are failing to prescreen patients for smoking — an indicator of addictive behavior — and whether they have a history in their family of prescription drug abuse. Furthermore, as medical advisor, Dr. Donald Teater, mentions is that the doctors who are able to prescribe these drugs are ill equipped to help patients who end up addicted or in trouble. Most doctors will only continue prescribing the same drug or a different drug and many doctors will stop working with the patient altogether, assuming no responsibility.

Here is a powerful video of Dr. Donald Teater talking about the doctor’s side of the story: https://youtu.be/yy4w_KMhy7Y.

“the doctors who are able to prescribe these drugs are ill equipped to help patients who end up addicted or in trouble”

Alongside all of the issues that come out the doctor’s office is the way we have become accustomed to accept the use of these drugs in such an open, almost proud and trendy way. A lot of this stems directly from the way they are advertised. In the U.S. we see just as many advertisements for prescription drugs as we do for anything else and they are equally as entertaining and romantic as a Coca-Cola commercial. We talk freely about the drugs we use as if they are part of our identity. A major thing that most U.S. residents are not aware of is the fact that we are only one of two countries in the world that has legalized DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising for medications and medical devices. The only other country is New Zealand, which unsurprisingly, has “some of the higher drug-abuse rates in the developed world.”

A Major Drug Company Brings Hope

photo: newsday.com

Luckily, the abuse of prescription drugs in the U.S. is becoming such a known issue that even some of the companies who produce and advertise the drugs are beginning to change the way they are promoted. The most recent example comes from the world’s second largest drug company, Pfizer. In an effort to help curb the use of addictive prescription drugs, Pfizer “has agreed to disclose in its promotional material that narcotic painkillers carry serious risk of addiction — even when used properly — and promised not to promote opioids for unapproved, “off-label” uses such as long-term back pain. The company also will acknowledge there is no good research on opioids’ effectiveness beyond 12 weeks.” This brings some hope, but it is probably not enough to depend on the drug companies themselves to solve the epidemic they are helping to feed, especially as long as it remains so profitable.

“there is no good research on opioids’ effectiveness beyond 12 weeks”

One of the most effective ways we can prevent ourselves from becoming a victim of such addiction is to be aware of the nature of these drugs and how to use them properly. First and foremost, we should realize that all of these drugs are only created to mask the symptoms and that they will never solve or heal the underlying problem. They can be very helpful in covering the pain while other measures are being taken to permanently heal.

One of the most important things we can do for our physical and mental health is to pay attention to the food we are eating. There are enough remedies through natural food sources that can prevent almost any mental sickness as well as most physical pains, or at least help streamline the healing process. For example, many people have seen illnesses such as ADHD and depression, as well as migraines and joint pains, completely disappear after learning that their bodies were intolerant to gluten. Only a couple weeks after eliminating gluten and processed sugars from their diets and adding brain-healthy foods like eggs, and salmon that contain the Omega-3 compound, they have noticed a fresh and consistent healthiness that transformed their everyday lives. With so much free knowledge in our time and increasingly more affordable natural foods and resources, it has become easier than ever in history to avoid taking any prescription drugs at all.

Works Cited

“International Statistics.” Drugfreeworld.org. Foundation for a Drug-free World, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016.

“Drugs In New Zealand.” Drugfoundation.org.nz. NZ Drug Foundation, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016.

Bernstein, Lenny. “Pfizer Reaches Agreement with Chicago to Limit Opioid Marketing.” Chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune, 5 July 2016. Web. 7 July 2016.

SAMHSA: Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings and Detailed Tables

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13–4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.

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