Prescription Drug Abuse May Be Closer Than You Think
Authored by Audra Franchini
If you think prescription drug abuse and drug addiction recovery doesn’t happen around you, think again.
Flipping through channels last night, I couldn’t help but notice multiple references to prescription drug abuse. In critiquing a singer’s outfit, one fashion expert said, “I need a Xanax just to look at her.” On another show, a late-night comic attributed his excessive giggling to his “meds” being “off.” And in another story, entertainment news discussed the death of a reality show contestant as an “overdose of pills.”
With a concentration of prescription pill references being associated with celebrities and entertainment, abuse of prescriptions can often appear as just another Hollywood phenomenon. Realistically, however, prescription drug abuse may hit closer to home than you think and there may be more people seeking drug addiction recovery than you realize.
Illustrating the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 44 people die every day in the United States from prescription drug overdoses.
Of the deaths in 2013:
- The majority were non-Hispanic white adults between the ages of 25 and 54
- The rates for non-Hispanic black adults have more than doubled since 1999
- Across age groups and races, deaths from prescription overdoses among women increased more than 400% compared to 237% among men between 1999–2010
Additionally, prescription drug overdoses outnumbered total injury deaths for adults between the ages of 24 and 64 in 2013. In the country, NH, NM, OH, PA, RI, and UT reported the greatest increases in prescription overdoses in 2013.
The Abuse Epidemic
The deceptive nature of prescription drug abuse lies in the fact that many believe drugs prescribed by a doctor cannot lead to dependency, abuse or addiction. Unfortunately, prescription medication can be equally addictive and just as illegal as street drugs. As a result, many Americans find themselves struggling with prescription pill addiction.
The CDC reports that nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription painkillers in 2013 and 1.4 million emergency room visits were caused by prescription drug abuse. Of those ER cases:
- 501,207 were related to anti-anxiety (e.g. Xanax) and insomnia (e.g. Ambien) medications
- 420,040 visits were related to opioid analgesics (e.g. Vicodin)
- Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) were frequently found in many of these cases in addition to other medications
Although it is not certain prescription drug abuse will manifest in a predictable way, The National Institute on Drug Abuse has compiled a list of factors and behaviors that may help determine people at risk.
Risk Factors Include:
- Using prescription pills in other ways than as prescribed
- Rapidly increasing the amount of medication needed or frequent, unscheduled refill requests to doctors or providers
- Engaging in “doctor shopping” or moving from provider to provider, in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Obtaining pills from friends, family members and/or strangers who have similar prescriptions and/or access to the drug they abuse
- Taking prescription pills consistently for 200 days or more in one year
If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse and is in need of drug addiction recovery, contact Lighthouse for more information on addiction, treatment options, and recovery.