Why people abuse prescription medication
There are several prescription drugs that are abused mostly in the United States. These are opiods, narcotics, pain relievers, depressants and stimulants. People of all ages abuse prescription drugs. The highest rate of abuse however is found in teenagers and young people. In 2008, 1.9 Million teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 abused prescription drugs ( Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009) The abuse of the drugs increases among the youth as they grow older being very high in the late teens. It begins to reduce past age twenty and declines in the next three decades with very low rates reported in people who are sixty years and above.
Prescription painkillers were the most abused. In a research study 35% of high school seniors revealed it would be very easy for them to get Vicodin and OxyContin. (Johnston, et al 2009).The trend of abuse also keeps growing. The rate of prescription drug abuse grew by 30% between the period 2002 and 2007. The young people obtain the drugs through several methods. There are individuals who visit various doctors and obtain multiple prescriptions from the hospitals. This method is known as “doctor shopping”. Some people alter their prescriptions. There have been cases where the prescription drugs have been stolen from the pharmacies. The young people get the drugs from family members or friends. There are unscrupulous people who give away their drugs or sell their prescriptions. The abuse of prescription drugs lead to life-threatening respiratory depression. Those who abuse depressants are more exposed to experiencing seizures and decreased heart rate. The stimulants lead to high body temperature and irregular heart rates.
The people also experience paranoia and hostility (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2001). Those that inject themselves are further exposed to the risks of HIV and hepatitis B or C.
These teenagers mix the drugs with alcohol and it could lead to dangerous drug interactions. Combining pain killers with alcohol intensifies respiratory problems and can lead to death (Levine, 2007) Between the years 1999 and 2002 the level of opiod analgesic deaths increased by 90% yet the incremental rate of death was 22% and 11% for cocaine and heroin deaths respectively (Paulozzi, Budnitz, & Yongli, 2006).
The youth take the drugs in the form of tablets orally or crash them into a powder to snort. They are those who dissolve the powder in water and dissolve it so that they can inject themselves. Another common way is mixing the drugs with alcohol and street drugs in order to create “cocktails”. It is illegal to consume prescription drugs without a valid prescription. They are penalties imposed on the offenders. There are several reasons why the youth prefer the prescription drugs, ranging from easy to get from medicine cabinets, they are not illegal. They reason they can lie that they have a prescription if they are caught. They are cheap compared to illicit drugs. They are also considered safer. There is less shame when discovered than if one was using illicit drugs. They are also easy to purchase over the internet. Research has shown that teenagers visit websites with pharmaceutical information to obtain information on dosage, different kind of pills and the side effects. They also participate in chat rooms and blog sites to share notes on their experiences with different drugs. All this contributes to the perception that prescription drug abuse is not dangerous.
They reason the side effects are way less. They will be used to assist in studying anyway. The youth also reason that parents will not care so much when they are caught unlike the case for illicit drugs. There is a perception in the youth that abusing prescription drugs is less dangerous than abusing illicit drugs. These drugs are also abused highly as they are easily accessible. The parents lacking knowledge on the danger of prescription drugs in the wrong hands do not know how to correctly dispose old medication. It is also an inexpensive method of getting high. There is less monitoring by parents in the area of prescription drug abuse. Over 70% of parents speak to their teenagers on the dangers of marijuana abuse while only 35% of them on tell them on the dangers of prescription drug abuse with their teens. Teenagers also abuse the drugs to treat pain and help them with schoolwork.
There are several signs and symptoms that parents or adults should be on the lookout for. These include constricted pupils, flushed skin, slurred speech and loss of appetite. There are also bound to be personality changes such as mood swings, clumsiness, high rate of forgetfulness, sleepiness or insomnia and high energy levels. The teenager will be increasingly secretive, keeps borrowing money and skips classes. He may even lose interest in his personal appearance. In the house there will be missing prescription drugs or one may find the teenager having unfamiliar pills. If he is on medication he will be running out of the drugs too quickly then requests for re-fills. The abuse of prescription drugs comes after Marijuana, alcohol and tobacco abuse. The rate of abuse is higher that cocaine and any other hallucinogenic drugs. There are several steps that can be taken to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs. First of all there is screening and comprehensive assessment. There has to be evaluation of how a person started using the medicine. Secondly the medical history of the individual should be analyzed and his mental health. The programs that are set up to deal with the addicted youth need to have certain resources.
They should be able to detoxify the affected youth to remove the drugs from the body. The physicians should have some expertise in pain and addiction management. There should be counselors and social workers with expertise in psychiatry. The recovering addicts should be taught on what to do when they are in pain and need to get prescription drugs. The lack of awareness on the extent and damage in abusing prescription drugs in parents and adults should be dealt with. There should be awareness campaigns and training or education workshops. The workshops should have medical experts, parenting experts, officials from schools and teens who are recovering drug abusers. Even the local media can be invited so as to publicize the educative workshops.
Another way of tackling the abuse is to deal with the easy accessibility of the drugs by young adults. “Doctor Shopping” should be dealt with by the state strengthening the drug prescription drug monitoring system. There should be massive outreach to physicians on the vice. There should also be increased automation and reporting capabilities in the pharmaceutical computer systems. The response speed of the fax alert system in pharmaceuticals should be high so as to alert them on potential prescription drug abusers.
Prescription drug abuse is at a very high level among the youth and elaborate strategies in prevention and recovery for the drug abusers should be set in place to reverse the trend. The level of awareness on the problem needs to be raised in the parents and the youth. The pharmaceutical companies and doctors should become involved to control this problem so as to have a better future for the youth in the country.
Johnston, L, O’Malley, P, Bachman, J & Schulenberg, J. (2009). Monitoring the Future National
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Levine, D. (2007). “‘Pharming’: The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in teens.”
Current Opinion in Pediatrics. Vol. 19, No. 3, pages 270-274.
National Institute on Drug Abuse Editors (2001). NIDA Research Report: Prescription Drugs:
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Paulozzi, L., Budnitz, D. & Yongli, X. (2006). Increasing deaths from opioid analgesics
in the United States. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety 15(9): 613-617.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Editors (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Retrieved from: