Prescription Drug Abuse Often has Innocent Beginnings
Janet’s (name changed) addiction began at the age of 14 when her doctor prescribed a strong painkiller to alleviate her chronic migraine headaches. The pill did cure her headache, but led to an addiction as well. Long after the pain vanished, she would still pop a pill to get a high.
Without realizing, Janet was soon hooked on hydrocodone and would end up popping up to 45 pills a day. In addition, in an effort to enhance the euphoria, she also abused tranquilizers like alprazolam and diazepam. The addiction even drove her to whisk pills from her father’s medicine cabinet and indulge in frequent doctor shopping to satisfy her cravings. It took her 11 long years to recover from the consequent devastation and trauma.
Such a pattern of addiction to prescription drugs isn’t unusual. It often begins with a genuine medical need, which paves the way to abuse and dependence. Eventually, prolonged use builds tolerance to the drug and the individual ends up ingesting higher doses to get the same effect.
Pop-a-pill culture wreaking havoc in America
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 70 percent of all Americans take a pharmaceutical drug daily. In fact, popping pills has become a daily ritual for most Americans. If one were to exclude senior citizens, the figures soar to an astronomical 90 percent. What is even more worrisome is that 20 percent of the children in the U.S. are now pharmaceutical drug users.
Abuse of prescription medicines to relieve pain is believed to be a major factor contributing to the nationwide epidemic. The CDC statistics show that since 2003, there has been a steady rise in the number of prescription drug abuse-related deaths. Painkillers have claimed more lives than heroin and cocaine combined.
As a matter of fact, it is such a common phenomenon that doctors have even created a profile for a typical victim of prescription drug abuse: “Non-Hispanic Caucasian male, in his mid-thirties. Preliminary diagnosis: Chronic back pain due to trauma, surgery or degenerative arthritis. And, most astonishingly, average time from obtaining the first prescription to time of death by overdose: Only 31 months.”
Why are so many people falling into the trap?
One of the reasons why most Americans are uninformed about the perils of pharmaceutical drugs is an underlying misconception about the drug testing and approval procedures. Many mistakenly believe that the FDA has a meticulous testing and evaluation mechanism in place. This is actually far from the truth. The present system places the entire responsibility of clinical trials and safety testing of a new drug on the pharmaceutical company which develops the drug.
Nonetheless, ease of availability is the prime cause of prescription drug abuse. Besides, painkillers are definitely cheaper than a multidisciplinary approach to treating pain. There are five main categories of high-risk individuals who could fall into the trap of addiction:
· Those who have abused other intoxicants or substances, such as cocaine or alcohol, in the past.
· Those who have a family history of substance addiction or alcoholism.
· Those who have gone through traumatic events in their early years, such as sexual abuse, death of a parent or violence.
· Those who live in surroundings where prescription drug abuse is common.
· Those suffering from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
Help is at hand
People should be made aware of the risks of prescription drug abuse by first educating the healthcare providers. Further, prescription drug addiction should be treated by physicians who have adequate training in both pain management and treating substance use disorders. Healthcare providers need to identify patients who are at risk of abuse and ensure that those taking opioids only consume the prescribed dosage.
If you or a loved one is grappling with prescription drug abuse, call the 24/7 Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California at 855–738–2770. One of our experts will help you find prescription drug rehab centers in California suited to your needs.