Prescription Drug Abuse – Overdose, Risks and Prevention

If implemented, policy changes would soon mandate doctors in South Carolina to consult the database of patients’ medical history in a bid to tackle the problem of prescription painkiller abuse, which has been rampant in the state. Prescription drug abuse is not just limited to South Carolina, but it is a mammoth issue bothering the entire nation.

Overdose and abuse of prescription drugs have become a common phenomenon across the United States. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. is in the throes of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic. According to it, drug overdose death rates have scaled five-fold since 1980.

How it begins

The habit mostly starts from painkillers prescribed by doctors to treat certain conditions after making individual analysis of patients. But since these medicines also help people lead a productive life by keeping problems like depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at bay, many start taking it regularly without considering the aftermath. Taking these medicines other than ways prescribed by doctors invites trouble. And the long and acrimonious battle with prescription drug abuse begins from there. One must approach prescription drug abuse helpline in that case.

People also have a false notion that prescription drugs are way less harmful than other opioids as these are prescribed by doctors. Since such medicines provide the desired high and relieve pain, it is often perceived as an elixir. However, the fact is abusing prescription drugs is as illegal as taking any other illicit drug.

Threat from prescription drug abuse

Actress Cameron Diaz once quipped, “I can’t wait to be that age and hanging out with a bunch of people hanging out all day playing golf and going to the beach, all my own age. We’d be laughing and having a good time and getting loopy on our prescription drugs. Driving golf carts around. I can’t wait.” But, for the most ordinary teens, there is this secret longing that brings this danger of prescription drug abuse to the fore.

Data suggests that teens are more vulnerable to prescription drug abuse. In 2012, 24 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to have taken any prescription drug without a doctor’s advice. The fact makes the situation grimmer. Hence parents and guardians of teens have to be extra cautious to prevent prescription drug abuse.

According to a study published in the Substance Use and Misuse, prescription drug abuse also increases the risk of suicides in teens. Keith J. Zullig, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., of West Virginia University School of Public Health, in Morgantown, who led the study, said, “Thus, our findings are important in that we demonstrated an association between depression, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts not just for general NMUPD (nonmedical use of prescription drugs) but also for the individual drug classes of prescription pain relievers, stimulants, and depressants.”

After marijuana, NMUPD is seen as the most prevalent drug issue in the U.S. Statistics reveal that almost 21 percent of the adolescents admit using at least one prescription pain reliever, sedative, or stimulant in their lifetime without being prescribed. These are mostly pain relievers, such as oxycodone.

Non-medical use of prescription drugs can be fatal. For instance, stopping the CNS depressants abruptly or reducing it suddenly can lead to seizures. A concoction of CNS depressant and other medications, such as prescription painkillers, some over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs, or alcohol can slow a person’s heartbeat and breathing, and may even lead to death. Stimulants, like some ADHD drugs, may cause heart failure or seizures. The risks increase tremendously when these stimulants are mixed with other medicines.

Prevention of prescription drug abuse

Preventing and curbing this growing epidemic need a collective effort from individuals, families, elders and institutions. Raising and spreading awareness among people will also go a long way. Besides, introducing stringent measures and regulations with period check will impede this menace to a large extent.