Prescription Drug Addiction Crosses all Classes, Demographics

Prescription Drug Addiction Crosses all Classes, Demographics

Drug addiction has gotten a makeover during the past decade. It now looks like the teen who raids the medicine cabinet at home before school. It looks like the mother of two who is popping pain medications before community functions. In some cases, it even looks like the medical professional who checks into rehab after months of abusing prescription drugs.

The reality of drug addiction in America, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is that prescription medications are the most rapidly abused drug today. In 2009, the agency reported that one-fifth of the population – more than 48 million Americans – have abused prescription drugs. The problem crosses all demographics and groups, and most people who realize they are addicted to prescribed medications had no intention of the drugs ever becoming a problem.

One mother reports becoming hooked on OxyContin after complications from birth. The drugs gave her the boost she needed to keep up with her children, but eventually, she needed more and more to get the same effects. The children were removed from the home because of her addiction.

Opioids are the most commonly abused prescriptions. The drugs provide a high sense of pleasure throughout the brain that the body easily begins to crave. When the prescribed drugs become unavailable, some addicts will begin to abuse substances like heroin to try to achieve similar effects.

When it comes to accessibility, the drugs have become much more widely available via Internet sales and can be delivered to the home in rapid time. Doctors may also continue to prescribe the medications without knowing if a patient is feeding an addiction or a true medical problem.

A 2010 update on calls the prescription drug problem a “crisis.” Some patients report that falling into addiction with pain medications is too easy because they can justify taking the pills since they have a medical prescription.

Patients looking for pain relief began to see more options during the last decade when doctors started specializing more in chronic pain treatments. OxyContin is a man-made opioid that can last for half a day; hydrocodone, marketed under brands like Vicodin, also entered the market. Hydrocodone is among the Schedule III drugs, meaning they are monitored, but don’t always require a written prescription.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes an increase in doctor-prescribed opioids that is ten times higher than the U.S. level in 1990. This number is also reflected in a serious increase in unintentional drug-overdose fatalities; the number rose from around 6,000 in 1990 to nearly 28,000 recorded in 2007.

Experts say the most common demographic for getting hooked on prescription medication abuse is in the bracket of mid-30s to mid-60s, who regularly see a doctor when normal aches and pains of aging start to crop up. According to the director of Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, Cathy Barber, several deaths may be linked to mixing prescriptions, or mixing them with alcohol.

Most experts say the problem stems from accessibility, and are calling for new campaigns to educate parents about keeping the drugs locked away. They also are pushing for stricter regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, tighter monitoring of physicians who give out the prescriptions and new non-addicting medications for pain.

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