Deaths four times higher from prescription drug abuse

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    Prescription drug abuse deaths has increased four times since a decade ago. (Photo by Shuttershock)

    Abuse of prescription medications is killing four times as many people than a decade ago, with 6,600 new prescription drug abusers a day.

    In fact, since 2007, deaths from unintentional overdose of prescription medications are higher than those involving heroine and cocaine, as noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

    These individuals use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, in other words without a doctor’s prescription, according to the latest research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Adolescent females are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than males, but that evens out in adulthood with both sexes misusing prescription medications. Overall one third of those misusing prescription drugs were adolescents.

    Half of the adolescents surveyed said that they were given or bought opioids from a friend or relative. The rate of visits to the emergency rooms, due to prescription drug adverse events, has more than doubled from just five years ago. This is the case for opioid pain relievers, central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and depressants, according to the same study by NSDUH.

    Opioids are prescribed usually to treat pain, while central nervous system depressants are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Stimulants are often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    NIDA lists the common drugs abused:

    Opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), propoxyphene (Darvon), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil).

    Central nervous system depressants include barbiturates such as pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax).

    Stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta), and amphetamines (Adderall).

    In this age of ‘take a pill’ combined with the common misperception that prescription drugs are somehow less harmful has added to the nationwide problem of prescription drug abuse, according to Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA.

    The good news is that drug addiction, illicit or prescribed, can be treated effectively. Usually there are several components, such a detoxification, counseling, and in some cases the use of addiction medications. Depending on the severity multiple course of treatment will be needed for the person to make a full recovery according to NIDA.

    There are many useful resources available and searchable databases for those seeking a treatment facility. For example the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a treatment center locator and many excellent references. NIDA provides a publication designed for patients to know what to ask when seeking treatment.

    The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) also provides links to recommended psychiatrists and related healthcare professionals. Mental Health America (MHA) has many links to available resources for help. Local Psychologists can be found via the Psychology Today Therapists Directory at MHA.

    Although most people use prescription medications responsibly, it is alarming that 6,600 people every day of the year, do not.

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