Prescription Drug Addiction, are doctors or patients more responsible for prescription drug addiction?
Each year in the United States, approximately seven million people will use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, and of that number, nearly 10% will obtain and use these drugs illegally. In a 1998 study, 1.6 million people reported using prescription drugs non-medically at least once. In 2006, 7.0 million people, or 2.8% of the U.S. population abused one or more prescription medications. Misuse of prescription medications has become a serious health problem in the U.S., leading heroin and cocaine as the cause of death from overdose in 2008.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
– Painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin
– Tranquilizers or depressants like Valium and Xanax
– Stimulants like Ritalin.
Addiction to prescription drugs usually follows some illness or injury for which the drug is prescribed. The patient, once addicted, finds himself in need of the drug long after the original illness has subsided, and can suffer severe withdrawal pain and discomfort when it is not available. Abusers often take cocktails of two or more medications, or drugs in combination with alcohol, sometimes with fatal consequences as in the case of actor Heath Ledger.
addicted to prescription drugs, like those addicted to illegal substances, will go to any lengths to obtain them. When they can’t get them from friends or relatives, or convince their doctor to write a prescription, they will lie; shop around for compliant doctors, and even fake medical conditions, just for a fix.
Part of the problem of prescription drugs in the U.S. is our obsession with ‘quick’ fixes to any and all problems, including medical problems. When we can’t sleep, have pain, feel depressed, or any other malady, we want an instant chemical solution. It has been jokingly said that it easier to get a Valium tablet from a stranger on the street these days than a cigarette. Among the younger set (late teens and young adults), getting ready to go out means making sure you have your phone, iPod, car keys, credit card, and pill case with the ‘quick’ fixes of your choice.
Unfortunately, doctors are among the most common suppliers of prescription drugs that are abused today. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 70% of Americans see their primary care physician at least once every two years. These doctors are in the best position to identify and curb prescription dependence. Our fee-for-service health insurance system however, fosters a type of assembly line medical care that discourages the type of analysis that would enable a doctor to detect anomalies that might indicate drug dependence or abuse. In addition, most physicians are focused on eliminating pain or other symptoms, and drugs are often over prescribed and there is little follow up of the patient’s use of drugs. In the case of people who fake symptoms to get drugs, doctors often find it easier to prescribe than fight.
Doctors, therefore, must assume a significant portion of the blame for the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this country. As previously mentioned, in 2006, 2.8% of the population reported non-medical use of prescription drugs. Painkillers accounted for 5.2% of abuse and tranquilizers 1.8%. While much of this is obtained illegally, much is obtained through prescriptions written by the family physician. In the final analysis, though, it is the individual who must shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility for drug abuse, whether it is of prescription medicines or illegal narcotics. Doctors need to do a better job of monitoring their patients use of drugs, but the individual is the one who puts the pill on his or her own tongue, and is the one who has to take action to correct the problem.
I work with Individuals challenged with various addictions including but not limited to – substance abuse, alcohol, and anger. I am a Registered Addiction specialist and a Certified Anger Management specialist 11. If you or a family member or someone who you know is in trouble with substance abuse or anger, we can work together to determine what the best course of action to take on behalf of you and that individual who is seeking help.
I can help, call me when you need to talk: 213-500-8865. For more information about Marty and his practice , visit his web site at www.martybrenner.com