Prescription Drug Abuse in US Overshadows Drug Wars

Prescription Drug Abuse in US Overshadows Drug Wars

While the U.S. works to enforce drug laws in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, they wage a different battle against drugs at home. Street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, are no longer the greatest threat of drug addiction in America. Now the most dangerous drugs are the ones found right in the medicine cabinet over the bathroom sink.

The Prescription Drug Epidemic

Of the thirty-six thousand people who died from drug overdoses in 2008, more than half involved prescription drugs. Pain relievers like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, and morphine top the list of the most dangerous culprits.The Obama Administration has called the prescription drug battle an "epidemic" and is searching for prevention and treatment strategies that can reduce the rising numbers of those who are falling into prescription drug abuse. The number of fatalities due to painkillers has tripled over the last ten years, and has surpassed the numbers of cocaine and heroin combined.

Not the Usual Users

Those who abuse prescription drugs fall victim to addiction in assorted ways. Some merely acquire them for recreational or experimental use. Some begin taking pain prescriptions, following the prescribed dosage per their doctor, for a legitimate ailment. But after a while, their body craves more and more to help keep the pain away. They begin asking for larger doses. When their doctor finally limits their prescription, they find their drugs through other sources or resort to using illicit drugs.

Other individuals may lack insurance and borrow medicines from friends to help regulate their pain. But as individuals self-administer their medications, they lose track of their dosage use, underestimate the power of drug addiction, and may mix drugs that can cause more complications or even death.

Reduction and Recovery

The White House is working on strategies to help reduce prescription drug misuse. Through education and awareness, drug monitoring and reduction, and treatment and recovery programs they hope to stop the epidemic. To their earlier goals of offering more prevention and treatment awareness and programs, they have recently added a goal of recovery. To help individuals avoid relapse, post-treatment programs can monitor their continued success and offer them further support in staying away from drug misuse.

In the spring of 2011, the administration encouraged state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). Last month, a U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control report focused on, "Reducing the U.S. Demand For Illegal Drugs." Their report suggested that the public be made more aware of the growing drug problem in the U.S., prescription drugs should be more securely regulated, and more research should be conducted and focused on treatment.

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