Prescription Drug Abuse

Every day, across the nation, 2,500 of America’s youth abuse a prescription drug for the first time.

Every year, more people initiate abuse of prescription drugs than any other drug. More than 2.1 million people a year begin abusing prescription drugs, compared to just over two million that begin to abuse marijuana. Placing third with more than a million initiates per year is abuse of tranquilizers.

Out of the top ten drugs people start to abuse each year, three are prescription drugs. In all, approximately 3.3 million people start to abuse these three prescription drugs each year. About a million of these people are between 12 and 17 years of age.

prescription drugs

In all, more than six million Americans abuse prescription drugs each year. That number is steeply up from 3.8 million in 2000.

These startling figures serve to point out the tragic growth in the abuse of prescription drugs. While proper use according to doctor’s directions can be therapeutic, when they are abused, the playing field is wide open and the results can be deadly.

Recovery from Addiction to Prescription Medications is No Easier Than Any Other Drug

Sadly, many people become addicted to pain medication, sedatives, sleep aids or stimulants even when they were properly prescribed these drugs and used them according to the instructions. Some people find they can’t stop taking them when they want to and some people phase into recreational use. Either way, many people who find themselves addicted to medication need help getting through withdrawal and full recovery.

Withdrawal can be a difficult phase of recovery unless one has the correct support. Some people find it so difficult that doctors will administer other opioids such as buprenorphine to prevent withdrawal symptoms. While the idea is that a person can be tapered off buprenorphine after a period of time, that period often stretches into years, meaing that a person who is trying to recover from addiction is still influenced by a drug for years.

It is possible to go through a tolerable withdrawal process as part of a substance abuse treatment program – if you choose the right program.

Factors that influence young people to abuse prescription drugs include:

  • Acceptability
  • Availability
  • Desire to eliminate unpleasant emotions or stresses
  • Initiation of prescription drug patterns resulting from medical treatment

Many young people feel that since prescription drugs are manufactured by reputable companies, abusing these drugs is safer than using illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. Many youth and young adults freely exchange supplies of controlled prescription substances they have obtained from their own medicine chests or those of other family members.

Seventy percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), morphine, codeine or methadone got these drugs from a relative or friend, often without their knowledge. Some young people admit checking out the bathroom cabinets when they visit other people’s homes to see what they can find, taking only a few pills so their theft is not obvious.

When asked why they started using either prescription drugs or illicit drugs, young people cited stress about school or home problems or wanting to fit in or feel more comfortable socially as major reasons. Without intending to become addicted, a young person may abuse prescription drugs on the weekends a few times and then find that the cravings quickly convert recreational use into habitual use.

Another factor that comes into play in the abusing of prescription medication by youth is the pattern of liberal administration of drugs by doctors. Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Strattera and other drugs are stimulants prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in millions of American youth. Doctors also liberally prescribe pain relievers such as Vicodin or OxyContin for pain, especially sports injury pain. Even a loving parent’s administration of over-the-counter cough syrups such as NyQuil or Robitussin may open the door to the abuse of the same substance when the child is older.

Overdose Deaths from Prescription Medications Increasing

A recent report from Florida provided some insight into how deadly prescription drugs can be and how fast death statistics are growing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement worked with the state’s Medical Examiners to analyze the death toll being created by prescription drug abuse. In 2008, 8,500 individuals were found to have died with one or more drugs in their bodies. The most common prescription medications found in these deaths were benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam, sold as Xanax) or the painkiller oxycodone, often sold as OxyContin. Coroners found alprazolam in 25 percent more deaths in 2008 than the prior year.

More than half the times that painkillers methadone or oxycodone were found in a deceased person’s body, that drug itself was the cause of death. Deaths caused by oxycodone increased 33.5 percent over the prior year.

The report also noted that when alcohol was excluded from these results, prescription drugs accounted for 75 percent of all drug occurrences in these deaths.

It’s easy to see that abuse of prescription medications can be just as deadly as the abuse of any illicit drug. Across the country, states report that their deaths from prescription medication abuse are doubling and tripling in just a few years.

A tolerable withdrawal process can be created through the following means:

Nutritional support in the form of vitamins, minerals and other supplements that help the body detoxify
Gentle re-orientation exercises that help the person focus on a new, safe environment instead of the dangerous or unprotected environment they may have seen in
Physical assists that calm muscular spasms and relieve stress and pain

  • Ample healthful food and drink available at all hours
  • Around the clock supervision to handle any problems that might come up
  • Mineral and nutritional sleep aids.