Some very common misconceptions about prescription drug addiction include:
“If a doctor prescribed it, it must be safe.”
"Addiction prescription medications can’t happen if I get my drugs from a doctor."
This is one of the most common myths associated with prescription medication. Many medications can potentially be hazardous if used incorrectly, even over-the-counter medications. People believe that a prescription medication can't be addictive. This is also not true.
Generation RX; Pill Addiction
There was nothing really new in Al Roker’s report, Generation RX, on MSNBC, but there was nevertheless an alarming ring to it, as he asserted that abuse of prescription medication (or pill addiction) is greater than cocaine, heroin, inhalants and hallucinogens combined. We always shutter at the thought of drug lords and crime on the streets, but the greatest potential for pill addiction is right in our own medicine cabinets.
Young people, teenagers and young adults, are the primary abusers of prescription pain medications, such as Oxycodone or Vicodin, or Percocet. The story said one out of five teenagers has abused prescription medication and may have a pill addiction.
Would people on the street believe that 20% of their young people were doing this?
I doubt it. But kids get their first hits out of the family medicine cabinet, not from some slimy pusher on the street. This is pain pill addiction usually begins. Teens do not have the ability to fully reason through the ramifications of drug abuse and are prime targets for experimentation and thrill seeking.
They take drugs for recreation, not knowing what potentially lies ahead. Even if some understand the dangers, they may choose to arrogantly or ignorantly ignore the warnings.
Joseph Califano, Jr., president of the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, explained that 80 percent of the abuse by teens is with pain killers, such as oxycodone or Vicodin, the two most popular. He warns of the increase of overdose and addiction as reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S.
Once hooked, addicts loose all sense of responsibility and reason. Young people with no criminal record of any kind are transformed from student to felon because of the power of the addiction, as nothing else but getting high has any meaning for them. They can’t focus on the things of life, such as relationships with family and friends. Their profession takes a backseat to feeding the addiction, and over time there is nothing left of their lives but emptiness and despair. It is a waste and a huge drain on the American economy.
Roker’s piece featured stories about people who robbed pharmacies, crime sprees that would not stop unless the people were caught. But one of the truly largest, unregulated, unfettered sources for drugs is the internet pharmacies. Any child, armed with a computer and his/her parent’s credit card, can order any drugs they want on the internet. Oxies? Sure, why not.
We live in a society that worships the benefits of the pill. If you can’t sleep, take a pill. If you are too heavy, take a pill. If you are in pain, take a pill. There is a pill for everything and if a doctor prescribes it, it can’t be bad. But doctors can not live with their patients and make sure they don’t abuse the drugs that are prescribed. There is not system in place to make sure that medical records can be viewed by a physician before he/she issues the script. People are known to see several physicians for the same condition and get prescriptions from all of them.
The pill addiction is bad enough, but the amount of crimes people commit just to get high is staggering. The strain it puts on law enforcement and the criminal justice system in general is alarming. Dealers are busted every day in this country, but they are soon back out on the streets.
No matter how many arrests are made, there is another wannabe dealer waiting to take the place of the dealer who has been locked up. Why? It’s because there is a market. There is a lot of money involved and dealers are going for the quick buck. Sometimes that criminal transaction will net hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the well-connected pusher.
Criminal gangs make drugs their top priority because there are plenty of clean-cut, suburban teenagers willing to buy, or successful urban professionals who want to get high for recreation. The people we think are the good guys are really the ones feeding the criminal enterprise. If you take away the market, the pushers go away.
Parents, lock up your prescription medications. Take inventory and count what you have on hand and be sure you know at all times what is there. Don’t assume that your child isn’t stealing them or isn’t struggling with pill addiction. Be sensitive to any changes in your child’s behavior and be willing to address the possibility of drug use. Keep your head up, your eyes open and don’t be caught with your head in the sand.
Prescription drug abuse and pill addiction are an epidemic and we all have a stake in forming the future. Control over how drugs are sold and distributed is vital, and the internet pharmacy is a bad idea whose time needs to come to an end. Likewise pharmacies have a responsibility to ensure safety and security. Robberies are on the rise and measures must be taken to prevent the store hold-ups. We all have a responsibility to educate and help prevent young people from getting started.
Warning Signs of Pill Addiction
As a person slips into abuse and on to addiction prescription medication, there are several warning signs that will help you determine if this is a possibility.
Does the person try to obtain prescriptions from several physicians and pharmacies?
Do they make frequent trips to the Emergency Department to receive pain medication?
Do they experience anxiety about prescriptions that have lapsed, or not having enough of the drug?
Are there mood swings or attitude changes? Do they display signs of intoxication?
Are they drowsy?
Is their speech slurred?
Even older adults, who take much more medication than young people, can get into an abusive pattern with their meds. Because they take more drugs, the problem of negative drug interaction is a concern, and because they are taking so many different medications, it might be difficult just to keep track of the amounts and the dosages.Moreover, the medication stays in the body of the older person longer than it does in a young person, and that increases the drug’s effect on the individual. Signs of addiction prescription medications include:
Frequent accidents or falls
While this might be common for older adults in general, it’s important to recognize the warning signs and notify their physician about the possibility of drug abuse.
There are many examples of how people get into addiction prescription medication. It might start with a knee injury and end up in divorce court after months of spending the family’s money to get the drug. It might have been a need for medication to relieve stress, but it turned into and endless search for the drug, far beyond the confines of accepted medical practice. No matter, the serious nature of addiction applies to prescription medication just as it does to illegal drugs, or alcohol.
Knowing the warning signs and having reliable information are the keys to recognizing and dealing with abuse of prescription medication. The medicines that doctors prescribe, in their right dosage and frequency, contribute to our health and well-being. But abuse, intentional or otherwise, leads to addiction and serious health concerns.
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Joe Herzanek discusses the importance of Step 6 in a successful 12-Step recovery, this week on Recovery Now!