In the United States abuse of prescription drugs is the Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. There are an estimated 20% of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Furthermore, the availability of drugs is increasing, with doctors prescribing more and more drugs. It is estimated that between 1991 and 2010 prescription stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million, with opioid prescriptions increasing from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million.
Is this an issue with doctors or the system? Although currently stricter, in the past online pharmacies made it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription. The most commonly abused drugs are:
· Pain relievers
There are many misperceptions regarding the safety of these drugs, mainly because these drugs are prescribed by doctors. Many people assume that they are safe to take under any circumstance because they are given out by a medical professional, however this is not the case. Let look are some of the side effects of the most common prescription drugs:
· CNS depressants: this class of medication includes benzodiazepines and barbiturates. When abused can cause severe respiratory depression, causing someone to stop breathing. These drugs are often abused for their sedative effects. The risk of CNS depression and respiratory failure is further increased when combine with alcohol.
· Opioids: they are commonly prescribed for pain relief however they can become highly addictive. People who abuse them sometimes snort or inject the drug to intensify the effect. It is estimated that about 1.9 million people in the US meet abuse or dependence criteria for prescription opioids. Abuse of opioids, alone or with alcohol or other drugs, can depress respiration and lead to death. Unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription opioids outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined
Substance abuse is defined by a set of behaviors including:
· increased use of the drug for longer than intended periods, tolerance, time and effort spent obtaining/using
· Preoccupation with substance use at the expense of other important social, employment or recreational activities
· Behavior persists despite negative physical or psychological problems.
Physicians should also understand their responsibility in prescription drug abuse. They should become allies in the fight against abuse instead of accomplices. That is why it is important to screen for signs of abuse and treat appropriately. Similarly, high risk drugs need to be given in a responsible and medically driven manner, when all other methods of treatment have been exhausted.