Prescription Opioid Analgesics: The New U.S. Drug Epidemic

According to the 2007 data released by the Center for Disease Control, prescription drug overdose resulted in approximately three deaths per hour. With nearly 27,000 such deaths that year, the CDC has appropriately classified the growing trend as an epidemic. Of course, in years since 2007, the prescription medication epidemic has really hit a fever pitch.

The main culprit is the prescription opioid analgesic. For centuries, opioids have been used to treat pain. Recent studies have routinely found them safe, if used according to the doctor’s orders. They have been especially successful in managing the pain of cancer victims and persons suffering from degenerative diseases. However, one of the trends feeding the epidemic is the growing use of these drugs to help manage chronic pain in non-cancer patients. This has paved the way for misuse; blamed in part on the heightened state of euphoria which is a common side-effect.

Furthermore, statistics indicate that starting in 2003, prescribed opioid analgesic overdose deaths exceeded both heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined!

Part of the problem is that these drugs seem less dangerous than drugs like heroin and cocaine because they are not “trafficked” through the normal routes. One need not go into a dangerous “drug area” to purchase opioid analgesics. Citing a need to better assist patients in their management of pain, doctors admit to having greatly stepped-up the writing of opioid analgesic prescriptions for non-malignant cases. This has in turn made the acquisition of prescriptions as simple as walking into a doctor’s office or clinic and complaining of severe pain.

An Oxy 80 Tablet

An Oxy 80 Tablet

Selling Part of A Legitimate Drug Prescription

Because they are easy to get and are effective at low dosages; it is common for people to acquire a prescription and sell off a portion for profit. A ready supply may be as close as you medicine cabinet, or that of a neighbor or relative. The most frequent abuser is described as poor, white males, age 20 to mid-60s; especially those residing in rural areas. However, recent crack-downs on illegal prescription drug sales have netted persons from all geographic settings, age-groups and socio-economic statuses.

Another contributing factor is the willingness of some pharmacists to turn a blind eye or even knowingly participate in improper drug dispensing. In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency launched a campaign directed at two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. Oxycodone, perhaps the most infamous opioid analgesic, was in such demand that, according to one area pharmacist, he would run out of his allotment within thirty-minutes of opening the store. Investigators learned that the stores supplier had shipped in excess of seven million of the popular pills to the targeted stores in only three years.

Getting Treatment for Opioid Addiction

There is help for those addicted to prescription opioids or other prescription drugs. Programs like SMART RECOVERY focus on empowering the individual to become self-reliant, to make positive changes, and to avoid the circumstances that could lead to relapse. DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY utilizes psychotherapy and discovery of issues and events that led up to the addiction, alternate choices that could have been taken, and future crisis management using better choices.

A third type of rehabilitation is COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY. Preferred in substance abuse cases, CBT is a combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy. It is considered a major breakthrough methodology for substance abuse rehabilitation. On the behavior side, the patient learns to control their physical response to situations which have been determined to have led to their addiction. This helps them to develop clarity of thinking thereby improving the response choices they make. The cognitive portion combats distortions in thinking so they have a more realistic viewpoint with regard to issues they are facing and can select responses accordingly.

Learning to spot the signs of prescription or other drug misuse may help you save the life of a loved one. Online training is available and many law enforcement agencies around the nation now offer drug abuse interdiction programs that can help.

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