Prescription drugs are the most abused substances in our society today. It has been estimated that more people abuse prescription drugs than most other illicit drugs combined. In the United States alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin. Every day in the United States, 2,500 youth (12 to 17) abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.
A Lethal Problem
Of the 1.4 million drug-related emergency room admissions in 2005 in the United States, 598,542 were associated with abuse of pharmaceuticals alone, or mixed with other drugs. Prescription drug abuse also causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdosing. Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths reported in the United States in 2005, opioid painkillers (drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, and morphine) were the most commonly found drug, accounting for 38.2% of these deaths. Depressants, opioids and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined. And these numbers have pretty much stayed steady ever since 2005, sometimes rising a bit and sometimes falling.
A Few Causes
So what is causing all of this? The problem with prescription drugs is that they are legal and easily accessible to people who want them. Not to give doctors a bad name or put them under a bad light, but it is often the case that powerful prescription drugs are prescribed for people who have problems that do not necessarily necessitate such an extreme response. Prescription drugs are highly addictive and people do not realize that they are addicted to them.
When it comes to addictions, they start small and with little problems, barely being detectable to them or people around them. Then the problems start to grow, and people around the sick person become more and more aware that there is something wrong. When it comes to prescription drugs, there is something that happens that is rather bizarre and can lead to an addiction. Usually, prescription drugs are prescribed for pain, and it can happen that whatever was causing the pain can cease, like a pinched nerve, toothache, sprained ankle, and so on, but pain still continues. What is happening here is that the body is manufacturing ghost pain due to it's dependence on the prescription drug that has been given, usually a powerful opiate. The body will literally create pain in order for the addiction to be fed, and thus people think that they are still having pain when what is actually going on is an opiate dependence.
The abuse of prescription drugs usually takes the form of someone taking way too many at a time or over the course of the day. Typically, prescription drugs are supposed to be taken maybe once or a few times a day, depending on the situation. However, someone who is abusing prescription drugs will take far more than that, sometimes up in the dozens. The body grows a tolerance to the drug that is being taken and as a result, more is needed in order to dull the pain that the person is experiencing.
One thing that can lead to these situations is that drugs are marketed as a "cure-all" to pain, and in some cases that is seen as true. When this happens, people take them for any kind of problem, big or small, and a dependence forms rather quickly. They are also given out by doctors for a broader range of issues as opposed to specific ones, and this leads to higher rates of people starting to abuse them. If Drug A was marketed as a cure-all to pain in order to get sales up, then as a result more and more of that drug will be prescribed for a larger array of issues, when in reality it might just be a powerful painkiller, the kinds that lead to prescription drug abuse.
Doctors and patients alike need to be aware of the dangerous consequences that can arise when taking prescription drugs. The information provided above proves that it is a problem, one that is growing more rapidly. There is a large number of factors that can be taken into account when it comes to figuring out exactly how this has all come to pass, but one of them might be that there is some false advertising going on on parts of the companies that manufacture these prescription drugs.