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Prescription Drug Abuse Continues to Increase

Recent evaluations and subsequent reports by the U.S. health regulator have increased concern over the extreme rise in cases of reported drug misuse and abuse by those with access to prescription drugs, often leading to prescription drug addiction, and subsequently, necessary drug treatment. The FDA estimated that an astonishing 33 million Americans, aged 12 years and older, misused extended-release and long-acting opioids in 2007, a large increase from the 29 million estimated cases just five years prior.

The large population of people abusing these medications has raised concern about what is being done to combat the issue, leading the Obama administration to create a plan of action for curtailing cases of misuse and abuse of medications, hoping to lead to an eventual decrease of cases of severe prescription drug addiction, as well as drug treatment. In response, the U.S. health regulator has ordered painkiller makers to provide educational materials for physicians and other medication prescribers who dispense opioids. These educational materials are meant to provide information to train physicians and prescribers on the proper use of these medications, as well as how to appropriately counsel patients as to the proper use of these medications in order to avoid prescription drug addiction.

Risk evaluation mitigation strategies (REMS) are at the forefront of these policies, combining doctor training, patient counseling, and other risk education measures to provide a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the looming issues of prescription drug abuse. As prescription drug abuse was the second largest cause of accidental deaths in 2007, the cause for concern is extremely apparent. The prescriber and physician aspect of the plan aims to educate these individuals as to the need for continued access to these addictive medications, along with stronger measures to reduce their risks. The plan also aims to ensure that specific drugs with higher addictive properties are used only for the purposes they were approved for and not any other reason, allowing individuals to cut down on incidents of misuse without restricting access from physicians and other medication prescribers. By cutting down the number of incidents of misuse and abuse of these medications, health officials hope to see a dramatic decrease in the number of cases of prescription drug addiction, as well as cases where drug treatment becomes a necessary element of recovery.

Because some opioids are synthetic versions of opiates used to treat moderate and severe pain, it would be impossible, as well as unfavorable, to completely eliminate their presence as prescription medications. These substances have an extremely high likelihood of addiction development for individuals who use them on a continuous, long-term basis, as well as those for whom they are prescribed on a short-term basis. In many cases, the likelihood for addiction is strong because the person is dealing with either a traumatic or chronic injury or ailment in which pain management is a necessary part of recovery. Over time, the body becomes more accustomed to having pain medication in the system, and will eventually require larger amounts on a more frequent basis in order to attain the same, or even an adequate, level of pain management. This can cause a sense of urgency for the individual, leading them to begin worrying about whether they have enough pain medication, when they will be able to fill their next prescription for the medication, and planning their daily activities and interactions around when they will be taking their pain medication. These are often the first signs of prescription drug addiction, even though most people do not recognize it as a problem at this early stage.

Parents can also help to address and possibly prevent the problem of children and teenagers beginning to abuse prescription medication. In most cases of the younger population abusing these medications, they first obtain them by taking them from a prescription meant for someone else, generally a family member within their home. Often, these pills are leftover from earlier prescriptions, making the chance that the parent would check or notice the amount of medication left months later quite unlikely. Parents can aid this problem by immediately discarding the leftover medication once it is no longer needed, instead of leaving the remains in the medicine cabinet where other people would have access to it. If they do want or feel the need to keep the remains of the prescription for later use, it is beneficial to invest in a prescription lock-box, which would require either a key or a combination to open. Cutting off open access to addictive medications can make it more difficult for children and teenagers to experiment with these substances, leading to a decrease in the instances of prescription drug abuse and necessary drug treatment among this age group.

Vista Taos Renewal Center specializes in the treatment of addiction issues, including prescription drug addiction. For information on the programs available to help treat addiction to prescriptions or other substances, contact the staff at Vista Taos.

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