Addictions grow slowly and elusively, and it is hard to spot one growing in someone, at least initially. Then problems begin to start, and get worse, and the addiction starts to take over the life of the addict. The last person who seems to know that there is an addiction going on, it seems, is the addict themselves.
This is especially true for someone who is abusing prescription medications, be they painkillers like Vicodin or Valium, or stimulants like Ritalin.
Mass Abuse Of Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs such as painkillers and stimulants are the most abused substance in our society today. It has been estimated that in the United States alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants (such as meth or crack cocaine) and heroin.
It has also been estimated that every day within the United States, youth aged from 12 to 17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. In 2006, roughly 2.6 million people abused a prescription drug for the first time. In 2007, a survey in the US found that 3.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 6% of 17- to 25-year-olds had abused prescription drugs in the past month. Where have these youth gotten these drugs from? Most likely from home.
Prescription drugs also do cause their fair share of deaths within our country- it causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdoses in the country. Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2005, just opioid painkillers, such as Dilaudid, fentanyl, Vicodin, forms of morphine, and OxyContin 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. Of the 1.4 million drug-related emergency room admissions in 2005, 598,542 were associated with abuse of pharmaceuticals alone or with other drugs.
Abuse in Teens and Young Adults
According to a survey done, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs, and 60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse based at Columbia University, teens who abuse prescription drugs are two times as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use marijuana, and an unbelievable twelve to twenty times more likely to use illegal street drugs such as heroin, Ecstasy and cocaine than teens who do not abuse prescription drugs at all.
Lack of Awareness
So, the facts are there. Prescription drug abuse, especially in teens, is a massive problem, a problem that is growing and needs to seriously be addressed in our society. There are few public awareness campaigns that address this issue, and there should be several more.
It is not uncommon for someone in a 12-step program to relapse on prescription medications. The problem with them is that they are legal, they are prescribed by doctors to aleve pain or address other symptoms and people feel that under these circumstances, using these medications, maybe even a bit too much, is alright.
Another issue with these substances is that the body gains a higher tolerance to them the more they are used. So, if there is still pain present, it seems sometimes that the painkillers are not helping it, and the user feels that more is needed in order for it to do what it is supposed to do. And sometimes, as it so happens, once the actual pain is gone, the mind will manufacture ghost pain in the body so that the user, who is already addicted to painkillers, thinks they need to take them in order to remedy the pain that will not go away.
Despite the fact that there are a few public awareness programs out there, that this issue is becoming more of a concern and that there are treatment centers opening up across the country to treat this problem, there is still not enough awareness about the fact that prescription drug addiction is a massive problem in our society.