Stillwater News Press

Health & Environment

June 21, 2014

Live Well 06-22-14

Prescription drug abuse a growing concern in the U.S.

Prescription drug use is continuously on the rise in the United States due to the medical advancements of this country.

Although prescription drugs have been responsible for saving many people with life threatening illnesses, they are also the cause of approximately 32,000 American deaths each year.

When drugs are taken as prescribed by a physician, the patient almost always sees improvements in their health condition. To ensure that there is an improvement in health, the doctor takes into consideration the patient’s weight, age, other health conditions, such as diabetes, and other medications being taken when carefully selecting a drug and dosage considered safe to prescribe to their patient.

This is what makes it very dangerous for others to take drugs that were not prescribed specifically for them. For example, even the dosage prescribed for back pain to a 50-year-old, 200- pound male should not be shared with his 13-year-old, 90-pound daughter because of how different their body compositions are.

With a prescription, the drugs are focused on the symptoms needing to be managed by mimicking neurotransmitters in the brain to make the patient feel better, which can lead to a higher chance of addiction in those abusing the drug without those symptoms, giving the abuser a euphoric feeling.

A general misconception about drugs is that if a doctor prescribes it, it is safe to take it. Prescription drugs are legal and safe only when the prescribed patient is taking and following the guidelines of the medication as directed by their physician.

Doctors prescribe medicine and give directions on how to take it based on their knowledge of how long it takes the medication to be broken down in the digestive tract and for how long it will work after its effects start to kick in. This knowledge is beneficial for a patient that needs the medication, but it is dangerous for someone who is trying to abuse the drug without full knowledge of its effects.

For example, if someone were to crush and snort an OxyContin (Schedule II prescription drug), the full dose would reach the brain much faster allowing them to receive the effects of the drug almost instantly. This is a high risk of overdose that can lead to death. The most successful way to prevent theft of, giving a prescription drug to the unprescribed, or taking an expired medication, is to instantly get rid of the medication when a prescription is no longer needed for treatment of an ailment. The medication can be safely disposed of at local drug drop box locations or by recently created drug disposal kits that break down the chemicals before throwing them away.

Ashley Hoobler is a prevention specialist at Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs.

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