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Doctors Can Help Prevent Drug and Alcohol Overdosing

Doctors may be in a prime position to combat the recent rise in young adult overdose rates due to combined drug and alcohol overdose, according to a new study. The study finds that doctors can take a proactive approach to educating patients about the inexorable dangers that exist when alcohol is combined with prescription drugs.

The Rutgers University study was completed by Aaron M. White, Ralph W. Hingson, I-Jen Pan, and Hsiao-Ye Yi, and the co-authors found that hospitalizations for drug and alcohol abuse rose dramatically between the years 1999 to 2008 for young adults aged 18- to 24-years old.

The researchers found concrete details about the rise in each of the following groups: alcohol abuse alone, drug abuse alone and concurrent drug and alcohol abuse. In the alcohol abuse alone group, the rise in hospitalization rates was 25%. Hospitalization rates for drug overdose alone increased by 55%. However, in the concurrent use group, the rate of hospitalization rose by a staggering 76%.

It is interesting to note that even though drug and alcohol use overall has decreased in this age set, the rate of hospitalization has increased. Most probably, fewer young adults are abusing drugs or alcohol, but those who are binge drinking, using illicit drugs, abusing prescription drugs, or combining alcohol and drugs do so at a much higher and more dangerous levels of usage. More research will need to be completed to determine the exact causes in the discrepancies of drug use rates and hospitalization rates.

Returning to the hospitalization rates, we can see that the rising rates of drug overdose and alcohol overdose are concerning. For that reason, the researchers focused their conclusions on the combined drug and alcohol abuse, stating that “(s)tronger efforts are needed to educate medical practitioners and the public about the risk of overdoses, particularly when alcohol is combined with other drugs.”

Taking this advice into the mainstream of physician care could begin in early teen years. Researchers believe that if teens are taught about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and the combination of alcohol and prescription medications before usage begins, the education could help them avoid the dangers at a later time in life.  Physicians and pediatricians can therefore be the first line of defense in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse within our young adult community simply by beginning general conversations about drug and alcohol abuse and the dangers of combining the two substances.

Additionally, doctors who prescribe medication to any patient could decrease the chances of a combination overdose by explaining the explicit dangers that exist when mixing the prescribed drug with alcohol. Rather than quickly advising the patient to avoid taking the drug with alcohol, the doctor may better serve the patient by explaining the dangers in depth, the dangers of which are outlined below.

In many medications, combining the drug with alcohol can lead to extreme depressant effects on the brain’s function, which increases the risk of amnesia, injuries and deaths. Death can also occur in non-injurious ways. Certain drugs combined with even moderate alcohol intake can make it difficult or impossible for those who have overdosed to control their vital reflexes like gagging and breathing, both of which can obviously lead to death.

Researchers believe that detailing the explicit reasons why mixing prescription drugs with alcohol is dangerous could be more beneficial than the outdated system of relying on prescription bottle warnings. The message may be louder and clearer when given vocally and in detail.   

Despite the new suggestions for doctor-relayed drug/alcohol counter-indications, however, it is still probable that addiction will occur in some cases. For those who do become addicted to drugs, to alcohol or to both, addiction counseling at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center like Vista Taos is a necessary step toward treating and curing addiction.

Through addiction counseling, those seeking the assistance available in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center can work on both overcoming addiction and on treating the underlying causes of addiction, the latter of which is an integral part in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. By working with patients through addiction counseling techniques, counselors can help patients identify why they turn to drugs or alcohol during times of crisis. In turn, when patients can understand the deep-set reasons beneath dependency, they can work with counselors on additional addiction counseling, finding ways to heal from their former pain and beginning to accept drug and alcohol rehabilitation as a new normal part of life.  

Moving forward, those who have completed addiction counseling as part of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program can begin afresh. Their lives can become more purposeful and more satisfying. Past hurts can be healed, and the crutches of drugs and alcohol can be left behind.

For more information on addiction counseling as part of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, contact your local rehab center today.

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