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Trends In Prescription Drug Abuse

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Autor:   •  December 7, 2010  •  3,708 Words (15 Pages)  •  802 Views

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Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the United States. According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in 1998, an estimated 1.6 million Americans used prescription pain relievers non-medically for the first time. This represents a significant increase since the 1980s, when there were generally fewer than 500,000 first-time users per year. From 1990 to 1998, the number of new users of pain relievers increased by 181 percent; the number of individuals who initiated tranquilizer use increased by 132 percent; the number of new sedative users increased by 90 percent; and the number of people initiating stimulant use increased by 165 percent. In total, in 1999, an estimated 4 million people - almost 2 percent of the population aged 12 and older - were using certain prescription drugs non-medically: pain relievers (2.6 million users), sedatives and tranquilizers (1.3 million users), and stimulants (0.9 million users).

Data from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicate that 4.0 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 reported non-medical use of prescription medications in the past month. Rates of abuse were highest among the 18-25 age group (6.0 percent). Among the youngest group surveyed, ages 12-13, a higher percentage reported using psychotherapeutics (1.8 percent) than marijuana (1.0 percent).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders found that the non-medical use of opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives/barbiturates, and amphetamines was unchanged between 2003 and 2004. Specifically, the survey found that 5.0 percent of 12th graders reported using OxyContin without a prescription in the past year, and 9.3 percent reported using Vicodin, making Vicodin one of the most commonly abused licit drugs in this population. Past year, non-medical use of tranquilizers (e.g., Valium, Xanax) in 2004 was 2.5 percent for 8th graders, 5.1 percent for 10th graders, and 7.3 percent for 12th graders. Also within the past year, 6.5 percent of 12th graders used sedatives/ barbiturates (e.g., Amytal, Nembutal) non-medically, and 10.0 percent used amphetamines (e.g., Ritalin, Benzedrine).

Youth who use other drugs are more likely to abuse prescription medications. According to the 2001 NSDUH, 63 percent of youth who had used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year had also used marijuana in the past year, compared with 17 percent of youth who had not used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year.

It's no secret that drug abuse can be harmful and dangerous. Most people think serious problems are only caused by club drugs like ecstasy and GHB, and by street drugs like heroin and cocaine. What a lot of people don't know is that prescription drug abuse (using medications for non-medical purposes) can be just as harmful and just as dangerous. Just because they're available at your local pharmacy, doesn't make them safe if they are misused or abused.

Prescription drugs are medications regulated by the U.S. government. These medications are helpful in treating a variety of health conditions and are only available when prescribed by a doctor or other healthcare professional. "The government restricts these medications because they may be harmful if they are not taken properly or if they are combined with other medications" (Firshein, 2005). Doctors and other healthcare professionals are highly trained and experienced at selecting the best medication to use for a certain condition. The type of medication and the dosage prescribed is carefully determined. "It's very important that the doctor's directions are followed exactly to help treat the condition for which it was prescribed and to make sure the medication doesn't cause unwanted effects" (Kalb, 2001).

"In 1970, the U.S. government set up a system to control the use (and the abuse) of certain drugs and other substances used to produce drugs. The Controlled Substances Act divides drugs into five classes: narcotics, CNS depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens and anabolic steroids" (Kennedy & Leslie, 1996). Each class is made up of drugs that have similar effects when they're taken. Ð''The reasons these drugs were placed under control is because they have a potential to be taken for non-medical reasons (or abused), may be harmful to use, or may cause physical dependence or addiction when not used under the direct supervision of a doctor or other healthcare professional (Rosenberg, 2001).

Abusing prescription drugs can affect your relationship with your family. It can create problems at school and with your future education. You may end up losing some longtime friendships or be forced to give up some of your favorite activities. And you could get into some serious problems with the law.

There are so many reasons to not abuse prescription drugs. According to Kalb using medications improperly may cause changes in your breathing and heart rates, making them dangerously high or dangerously slow. Your body temperature may get way too high; comas and seizures are possible. It's also possible to die from an overdose (2001).

"Prescription medications can be helpful Ð'-- even life saving Ð'-- when used for treating injury and illness" (Scanlon, 2005). They are to be used only when prescribed to you by a doctor or other healthcare professional. But when misused or abused, they can have devastating effects. "Even when prescription drugs are unintentionally misused Ð'-- for example, if you accidentally take more of your own prescription than you were directed to by your doctor Ð'-- the effects can be very different from what you expected (Deans, 2005). Kohn notes that some of the effects of misusing or abusing prescription drugs include: excessive sweating, urination or thirst; nausea and vomiting; uncontrollable diarrhea; spastic shaking; drowsiness, dizziness and insomnia; loss of consciousness; addiction; hospitalization; and death (1998). Besides the physical effects, prescription drug abuse can affect other parts of your life that you may not even think of, some prescription medications can cause a loss of coordination or judgment that may make you do things you normally would not. You may do something embarrassing in front of your friends or other kids at school. Or, you may do something dangerous that hurts you or someone else.

The risks for addiction to prescription drugs increase when the drugs are used in ways other than for those prescribed. "Healthcare providers, primary care physicians, and pharmacists, as well as patients themselves, all can play a role in identifying and preventing prescription drug abuse" (Kalb, 2001).

While most people still think of a doctor when considering medical care or medication advice, a doctor


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