What Are The Numbers?
The abuse of prescription drugs is probably the fastest growing drug issue in the US. Fatal overdoses hit a sad new record every year, claiming 1.5 times as many lives as car accidents or gun violence.
And these numbers are not attributed to illegal drugs, but the highly available prescription opioid painkillers.
Government statistics shows that at least 2 million people either abuse or suffer physical dependence on the drugs. Check out details at Addictions. Doctors might be responsible for the onset of the crisis by recommending painkiller intake for minor aches and ailments, which do not require medication.
Almost every adult in the country has one of these bottles at home, and many have unfortunately become hooked on what’s inside.
Why Are Opioids Prescribed?
In the middle of the 20th century, semisynthetic opioids were only used on terminal illnesses to manage pain, or after surgery. The use was very short-term, as doctors took care that their patients didn’t get addicted.
As the 90s arrived though, pressure on them increased and they started treating thousands of cases of back pain and osteoarthiris in the same way. Claims of the non-addictive nature of the substances were spread, and were believed by both doctors and the general public. By the time the truth was revealed, too many were already addicted.
Why Are Opioids Dangerous?
What makes them dangerous is that they create a powerful feeling of euphoria, making users feel carefree and numb. However, as soon as two weeks from the start of treatment, some patients develop painkiller tolerance and need a higher dose in order to achieve the same result as before.
Increased tolerance, coupled with craving and physical dependence, can have catastrophic consequences. Large doses of prescription painkillers can gradually slow down the respiratory system until the person stops breathing. Mixing the pills with other substances leads to an increased risk of overdose.
What are the measures?
While authorities have been quite successful at curbing pill mills, it is usually the family physicians who write the prescriptions. A lot of states are now setting up software to track down whether patients are trying to obtain drugs illegally by going to multiple places. Medication-assisted treatment programs are also becoming available.
Unfortunately, the harder it becomes to gain access to prescription drugs, the more likely are addicts to turn to stronger substances, such as heroine.
How Can Doctors Curb The Epidemic?
Doctors could certainly cut down the number of prescriptions written, or at least stop supplying individuals who are already overdosed. A lot of the latter get their new prescription after a non-fatal overuse of another painkiller, both issued by the same doctor.
The issue remains, however, for all those who are not addicted, but have to live in tremendous pain if they fail to obtain the medications. The problem stems from the fact that some people are able to live a normal life with the help of pain relief drugs, while others put their life at risk by the same. It’s like playing a Russian roulette with people’s life and wellbeing.