Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse affects millions of people in the United States. In 2010 alone, more than 12 million Americans reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.
People who abuse prescription painkillers get drugs from a variety of sources. But among the most common include obtaining the drugs for free from friends or relatives, and through doctor’s prescription.
Initially, a person would ingest Rx medicines to achieve a feeling of euphoria. But the habit can eventually lead to addiction wherein a person will start taking larger doses which can cause breathing to slow down — so much that breathing stops and result to a fatal overdose.
In 2008, prescription painkillers were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths, exceeding the death toll for cocaine and heroin combined. In 2009, the misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers resulted to more than 475,000 emergency department visits, a number that almost doubled in just five years.
To heighten people’s awareness on the dangers of prescription drug abuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with PBS News, put together a list of things you should know to help fight the recreational use of prescription medicines.
1. Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than motor vehicle crashes.
2. Enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate each American adult every four hours for one month.
3. Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade.
4. Roughly 1 in 20 people in the U.S. reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons in the past year.
5. You can help prevent prescription drug overdoses.
6. The prescription drug overdose epidemic can be stopped through effective public health interventions.
7. States can start or improve prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and use Patient Review and Restriction (PRR) programs.
8. States can enforce policies aimed at reducing drug diversion, abuse, and overdose.
9. States and communities can enhance access to substance abuse treatment.
10. Health care providers should use evidence-based clinical guidelines and practices to promote safe and effective use of prescription painkillers.
Ever wonder how many Americans are using marijuana, heroin, and prescription drugs?
The drug prohibition policies in the United States traces its roots back in 1914, but the term “war on drugs” was popularized in 1971 upon the declaration of then-president Richard Nixon. The goal of Nixon’s anti-drug campaign was to increase the size and presence of federal drug control agencies.
More than 40 years later, however, it appears that the number of people using and misusing banned substances are increasing, not to mention the emergence of newer substances that are getting kids “high” and sending some of them to emergency rooms for treatment.
Marijuana is still considered the most commonly abuse drugs in the U.S. with roughly 100 million Americans admitting to trying the drug at least once, according to the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.
Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a report suggesting that one marijuana arrest happens every 42 seconds.
After marijuana there’s prescription drug abuse which is getting a lot of attention lately because of the increasing number of teens experimenting on them. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prescription drug misuse remains a top public health concern in the United States, with approximately 22 million people initiating nonmedical use of pain relievers since 2002. The figure was based from the combined 2010 and 2011 data indicating that rates of past year misuse among those aged 12 or older.
Among the states with the highest rates of nonmedical use of prescription drugs were Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.
Ritalin and Adderall, drugs commonly prescribed in people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), were noted as among the top drivers in the increase of teen medicine abuse.
Given the growing rates of prescription drug abuse, drug manufacturers altered the formulation of OxyContin, another commonly abused Rx medicine, to prevent drug addicts from crushing and abusing it. However, this led to addicts turning to other prescription meds, as well as heroin.
In 2008, it is estimated that there were more than 200,000 current heroin users in the United States. Between 2008 and 2009, there had been an obvious increase in lifetime heroin injection use among 10th graders.
Fentanyl has become one of the most widely abused opioids among teens and young adults because of its euphoric effect. The drug is available in various forms, such as a liquid for injection, patch, and lollipop.
In its prescription form, fentanyl is known as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Street names for this potent synthetic opioid include Apache, China girl, China white, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot, murder 8, Tango and Cash, and TNT.
Like other opiate drugs, fentanyl can be dangerous when used for recreational purposes. When mixed with street-sold heroin or cocaine, the effects can become even more harmful. Among the symptoms a fentanyl abuser may experience include dizziness, severe constipation, dry mouth, hives, vision problem, lethargy, headaches, depression, hallucinations, difficulty sleeping, shaking, swollen extremities, breathing difficulty, coma, tolerance, and addiction.
In 2009, emergency department visits associated with nonmedical use of fentanyl reached an estimated 20,945 — an 85 percent increase from the 11,211 ER visits in 2005, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
But fentanyl abuse is not only a problem in the United States. In Australia, a 2012 National Coroners Information System (NCIS) report found fentanyl abuse was a factor in at least 50 deaths since 2010. That figure didn’t include the 32 deaths linked to the drug that were still under investigation at the time the report was completed.
In Ontario, Canada, four overdoses of fentanyl were reported between 2008 and 2010.
An independent filmmaker from Wisconsin partnered with several community organizations to educate kids about the risks of prescription drug abuse.
Ron Haese, a well known producer and director of feature films and documentaries, is on the verge of finishing Ten Forty Eight — a film that underscores the serious consequences of prescription drug abuse among teens. The project is in partnership with Town of Menasha and city of Menasha police departments, Theda Clark Medical Center, Gold Cross Ambulance, Westgor Funeral Home and Sterling Gardens Florist.
Ten Forty Eight tells the story of a group of high school students who get prescription drugs through a variety of means and gather in a basement to take them. It stars students from Neenah, Kimberly and Kiel high schools to help teenage viewers connect with the story. In one of the scenes, two teenagers were rushed to a hospital after overdosing from prescription medications. One of the students is resuscitated while the other did not survive from the incident. Other characters in the film are arrested and put to jail.
“This is a problem that’s coming up often in kids’ lives,” Haese told PostCrescent. “I’m not sure they understand the consequences of taking these drugs. I hope this film can help them understand.”
Filming of Ten Forty Eight wraps up this month. Haese is hoping to have the movie ready for viewing next school year.
Haese is a veteran in producing and directing films that help raise awareness about issues like alcohol drinking and drug abuse. He has entered 15 of his films into national film festival competitions which earned him over a dozen national awards, with four awards for his writing.
Drug use has claimed the lives of so many people in the U.S., and as years go by the number of people dying from drug overdoses has continue to alarm the law enforcement and public health officials.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug fatalities increased 3 percent in 2010. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate the figure keeps adding up.
CDC researchers found prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, as top drivers for the increasing drug deaths. The numbers were a disappointment for public health officials, who had expressed hope that educational and enforcement programs would stem the rise in fatal overdoses, the Los Angeles Time reports.
“While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn’t,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in an interview. “It’s a big problem, and it’s getting worse. The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer pain, is scant to nonexistent. These are dangerous drugs. They’re not proven to have long-term benefit for non-cancer pain, and they’re being used to the detriment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country.”
Frieden added there are some promising tools which can help combat the problem. One of them is the use of computerized drug monitoring programs by health care professionals.
In California, there’s the prescription drug monitoring program known as CURES but officials are not proactively using it to identify people who “doctor shop” or physicians who over-prescribe medicines.
Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s drug czar, echoed Frieden’s call for aggressive monitoring by state medical boards. He agrees that medical practitioners should be more proactive in fighting prescription drug abuse by utilizing state drug monitoring database instead of just waiting for someone to complain.
The recent admission of rapper Lil’ Wayne to the ICU at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles has put to light the dangers of drinking sizzurp, or more popularly known as purple drank. Even though the multi-platinum hip hop recording artist denied that his near-death experience had something to with sizzurp, the rumor mill continues to mention the dangerous drink as the culprit of his seizures.
First of all, since when exactly did sizzurp become a favorite drink among the youth? Why should parents worry about it?
Robert Earl Davis Jr., a Houston disc jockey known as DJ Screw, was said to be the one who popularized the concoction of cough syrup and softdrink in the late 1990s. Many a time, hip hop musicians have rapped about the drink. Among those rappers who referenced the mixture in their lyrics include D12, Eminem, Lil’ Wyne, Big Moe, Lil’ Wayne, Ludacris, Slim Thug, Mack Maine, and Fat Joe.
Lil’ Wayne in particular has openly acknowledged his fondness for purple drank. In the music video Duffle Bag Boy, he was featured holding a Styrofoam cup with “RIP DJ Screw” written on it.
The mere mention of sizzurp in music has augmented its popularity, leading up to the awareness of some teenagers and young adults across the country.
In concocting sizzurp, users typically mix an ounce of cough syrup — containing codeine and promethazine — with Sprite or Mountain Dew and dissolved Jolly Rancher candy for extra sweetness, and pour it over ice. The drink is known to give users the euphoric high. However, other side effects include motor-skill impairment, lethargy, nausea, drowsiness, hallucinations, seizures, and even death.
In fact, some notable deaths linked with codeine overdose include that of DJ Screw in 2000; Big Moe, a DJ Screw protégé, in 2007; and Pimp C, a Texas rapper and a member of rap duo UGK, in 2008.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had warned people about the rising trend of cough syrup abuse. Although it is unclear as to how many people are drinking sizzurp, numerous health experts and the law enforcement are cautioning people about the fatal effect of cough syrup misuse.