Prescription Drug Abuse
Since 2010, the National Take Back Initiative has educated Americans about the dangers of leaving excess prescribed drugs inside their homes, and how a correct disposal method can become the first step to preventing prescription drug abuse. The most recent campaign was conducted last October 26, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Several counties and states have put their full support to this government activity:
- In Baltimore, the entire police force has coordinated with the DEA to push the event to the limelight, by offering their stations as drop off locations for those who want to throw away their unused medication. Lt. Michael Brothers of the Anne Arundel County Police shared in a news release that they will not interrogate locals who are planning to dispose of their medicine at the police stations. “We will not ask any questions. You can place them in the box and you can leave. No questions asked,” said Lt. Brothers.
- Government personnel and sheriff’s deputies at Harford County were assisted by DEA in transforming the county office parking lot into a drop off site. Doug Ellington of the DEA expressed his sentiments about the issue. “Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in this county… Non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as a drug of abuse,” Ellington said in a news item.
- The city of Huntington in West Virginia was able to amass about 30 pounds of prescription drugs across three Take Back stations. Cpl. Steve Vincent of the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department was surprised with the turnout. “We’ve been going for about an hour-and-a-half and we’ve already got two boxes filled up,” Vincent said.
Indiana officials are stepping up their campaign against prescription drug abuse with the launch of a new website and a series of public service announcements.
www.in.gov/bitterpill/ is a joint effort between Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. Its goal is to educate Hoosiers about the dangers of Rx medicine abuse, how to properly store and dispose prescription medicines, how to talk to kids about prescription drug abuse, and more.
Data provided by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) showed more than 700 residents of Indiana died from accidental drug overdoses in 2011. The new website hopes to reduce this number and steer kids away from potential addiction.
“Statistics show that abuse and misuse among all age groups is a serious problem in Indiana and that’s a bitter pill for our state to swallow,” Zoeller said in a news release. “Whether you are seeking ideas on how to talk to your teenager about whether they are abusing prescription drugs, searching for help for yourself or a loved one or just want to know how to properly dispose of your unwanted medications, this new website serves as a one-stop shop. I believe consumers need to be armed with information and the right resources so we can try to put an end to this epidemic.”
Zoeller mentioned the top five features of www.BitterPill.IN.gov, namely: Knowing the dangers, Dealing with addiction, Proper prescription disposal, Clinical resources, and Reporting illegal activities.
State Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem) agreed that the new website is a great resource in fighting the epidemic that “threatens the health of our state.”
The new website was unveiled in conjunction with the launching of a series of online, print, television and radio service announcements which will officially air on September 2.
A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that people who use prescription pain relievers for nonmedical reason are at greater risk of heroin abuse.
The Associations of Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use and Initiation of Heroin Use in the United States, which covered the period of 2002 to 2011, revealed that 12 to 49-year olds who had used pain relievers without a doctor’s prescription were 19 times more likely to have used heroin within the past 12 months of being interviewed for the report. It also indicated that 79.5 percent of heroin users had formerly engaged in nonmedical use of pain relievers.
“Prescription pain relievers when used properly for their intended purpose can be of enormous benefit to patients, but their nonmedical use can lead to addiction, serious physical harm and even death,” Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, said in a news release. “This report shows that it can also greatly increase an individual’s risk of turning to heroin use – thus adding a new dimension of potential harm.”
Even though the report said that only 3.6 percent of those who used pain relievers without prescription went on to use heroin within five years, the findings shouldn’t be regarded very lightly given the increasing number of people, especially teens, who turn to prescription drugs to get high.
From 2007 to 2011, the number of people who reported use of heroin in the past 12 months increased from 373,000 to 620,000. Heroin dependents in the past 12 months likewise rose from 179,000 in 2007 to 369,000 in 2011. The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period.
When Colorado legalized the use of recreational marijuana last year one might think it could somehow lead to an uncontrollable number of pot abusers. Surprisingly, the abuse of prescription drugs became more of a serious problem in the state than any other addictive substances.
State Attorney General John Suthers said more Coloradans are dying from prescription drug abuse than alcohol-related road accidents. In Adams County alone, 1 in 5 high school students reported abusing prescription drugs in the previous year. Nearly 15 percent of 18-to-25-year olds in the state are abusing painkillers.
Vicodin, Oxycontin and Valium are among the widely abused prescription drugs in the country, climbing from 40 million in 1991 to over 180 million in 2007.
Suthers joins other health experts and public officials taking a stand in the issue in warning people that just because Rx medicines are prescribed by doctors doesn’t mean they are safe to use recreationally. He told 9News that the state is about to begin a focused effort aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and such effort will be felt over the next 6 to 12 months.
“We need to shore up our prescription drug monitoring program,” Suthers said. “I think we have to make it mandatory but we also have to make it very user friendly by doctors.”
A legislation aimed at fighting dextromethorphan abuse has recently won the support of New York lawmakers, and is now at Governor Andre Cuomo’s desk for final approval.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, directs any retail establishment to prohibit the sale of products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to persons under 18 without a valid prescription.
“Too many of our teens are abusing this medicine to get high,” Jaffee said during a press conference at South Orangetown Middle School early this month.
Jaffee began working on the bill two years ago after hearing stories about the negative impact of DXM abuse. She did her research on the topic, review the dangers of peer pressure, and assess how poor discussion about the problem is destroying the lives of the country’s future generation.
Similar legislation is already in place several counties including Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau County. But Jaffee’s bill will enforce the age restriction on a state level. Once Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, a $250 fine will be imposed to those who will be caught violating the provisions of the new law.
“I think the bill is going to make a huge difference. It will deny access. And once you deny access, you raise awareness,” Jaffe noted. “It’s a very important step.”
The White House Office on National Drug Policy declared prescription drug abuse as the fastest-growing drug problem in America. A recent study showed that in just five years the number of teens who are misusing prescription medicine had climbed to about 5 million, with 20 percent of them saying they started abusing Rx medications before age 14.
Surprisingly, teenagers can tell you dozens of reasons why they are turning to prescription drugs even though they are in perfectly good health. Adderall and Ritalin, for instance, are getting widespread attention lately because some teens are using them to improve academic performance. But aside from understanding teenage angst it is in your best interest to also know the pills that could attract your child’s attention.
This pain-reliever is often prescribed in people with arthritis, cancer, and other medical conditions whose symptoms include chronic and sever pain. It effectively eases pain if taken under prescribed dosages. However, the drug can be abused by being snorted or injected, producing a quick and powerful “high” that is said to be comparable with the feeling of taking heroin.
Among the negative side effects of OxyContin include drowsiness, weakness, nausea, impaired coordination, confusion, addiction, coma, even death due to overdose.
Although getting high is what drives many teens to abuse prescription drugs, others do so to address personal issues. Ambien abuse, for example, can occur because a person wants to experience sedating effects. But some teens are taking their spontaneity to a higher level by taking the drug with alcohol, which proves to be even more dangerous. Among the side effects of the drug include slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure, memory loss, hallucinations, unconsciousness, confusion, impaired coordination, coma, and death.
This brand of stimulant is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens are especially prone to abuse the drug because it is believed to help them lose weight or study better. What teenagers don’t know is that taking Concerta outside of the prescribed method can be very dangerous and lead to paranoia, schizophrenia, or psychosis. Other negative side effects of the drug include increase or decrease in blood pressure and digestive problems.
A prescription medication classified as a benzodiazepine, Xanax is used to treat panic disorder as well as manage anxiety disorder or temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms. One of the reasons teens abuse the drug is because it gives feelings of well-being and lowered inhibitions. But it could also lead to irritability, drowsiness, memory problems, lack of focus and coordination, confusion, tremors, depression, hostility, seizures, chest problem, and hallucination.