The American culture holds fast to a certain perception regarding prescription medication - because it is prescribed by a doctor, purchased at a pharmacy and contained within official looking plastic bottles, these medications are safe when taken by anyone at any time. This isn’t necessarily true, which has led to widespread abuse of pharmaceuticals.
In fact, abuse of control prescription drugs now exceeds abuse of all illegal drugs combined, except marijuana. Today, the number of people in treatment for addiction to these legal medications has dramatically increased as have the number of deaths from them.
This escalation in addiction and death is primarily predicated on sheer availability. Millions of prescriptions for pain relievers, anti-anxiety aids and sleeping pills are written every year. The Internet is also a growing source of drug availability, since Illegitimate online pharmacies often sell controlled substances with no prescription required.
Two segments of the population are particularly at risk for prescription drug abuse. The first is young people. The desire to get high is certainly nothing new. Except now, there is little need to find a dealer, when desirable drugs are as close as the family medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, these drugs usually come in pill or capsule form; therefore, adolescents can alter the method of delivery for faster results. They might break or crush the pill or capsule and snort it, smoke it or "cook" it—turn it to liquid—and then inject it. With a drug such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), this means a dosage that was intended to be absorbed over a 12-hour period hits the central nervous system immediately, dramatically increasing the possibility of overdose or death.
The second most at-risk group is women. In fact, women are the fastest growing segment of substance abusers in the United States. This is not confined to a certain age group. Young women often turn to stimulants to regulate weight. Working mothers, haunted by the “superwoman” myth, often turn to doctors with complaints of sleeplessness, anxiety, extreme fatigue or depression. Addiction to tranquilizers and pain killers is not uncommon. Even older women, experiencing an empty nest, visit physicians with similar complaints as the over-stressed working woman. They receive prescriptions for pain killers or sedatives, which are highly addictive and frequently abused.
If you, or someone you know is addicted to prescription drugs, please get help immediately.
- Dr. Kim Dennis
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