People are generally aware of the fact that illicit drugs are harmful and their abuse often prove fatal. However, in reality, more Americans abuse legally or illegally obtained prescription drugs and off-the-counter medications than street drugs. As per the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.”
Clearly, in the United States, succumbing to prescription medicines is more common than heroin, probably the most abused illegal drug, and the nation’s “battle against drugs” has taken a new hue with its addition.
Many believe that the pharmaceutical industry is largely responsible for the prevailing addiction to drugs. For years, these companies have been manufacturing and pushing their drugs, mostly opioids and central nervous system (CNS) depressants, into the markets without adequate warnings. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) believes that the prescription drug abuse epidemic is due to the following reasons:
- Disregarding the chemical standpoint that OxyContin is nearly identical to heroin in several ways. Initially it could be inhaled or administered by injections, creating a high more lethal than that caused by heroin.
- Changes in pain prescription drug guidelines leading to opioids becoming the most popular option for lower back and other pain conditions.
- Promoting long-term use of opioids in the absence of concrete evidence as far as safety is concerned.
- Misinforming medical practitioners, doctors and patients about the addictive properties of opioids.
Reasons why prescription drug abuse is dangerous
There are several reasons due to which prescription drugs have gained notoriety as the most abused drugs, which include:
- Easy availability: All one needs is a valid medical prescription to legally procure prescription drugs. This could lead to potential abuse if a patient decides to exceed the prescribed dose or go on a doctor shopping spree.
- Abuse leads to addiction: Many are unaware that prescription drugs, such as opioids, are basically pharmaceutical-grade heroin legally produced in a laboratory. They are undoubtedly as addictive as their counterparts being illegally sold on the streets.
- Internet is a great market: Typing “no prescription online pharmacy” can throw up a plethora of websites where anyone can purchase any kind of prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription.
- Online purchases could be fake: It is quite possible that prescription medicine purchased online might be counterfeit, or composed of toxic ingredients which could prove lethal.
- People think they’re safe: Most people place blind faith in their doctor without checking the effects or reporting if they start becoming dependent. Alternatively, they may even exceed their prescribed dose without informing the doctor. This builds tolerance in them leading to substance abuse and addiction.
- Prescription drugs are sedative: Sedation is a common outcome of such drugs and can temporarily impair a person’s senses leaving him vulnerable to accidents.
- Risk of mixing drugs is high: Those addicted to prescription drugs often tend to mix them with alcohol or other drugs, resulting in a lethal concoction.
Help is just a call away
It is unfortunate that many individuals consider prescription drugs to be safe, and disregard the directions given by the doctor. But the truth is that any form of misuse or overdose is dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other leading agencies issue guidelines from time to time to control overprescription of painkillers by doctors. As per the latest guidelines, doctors or medical practitioners must prescribe opioids only if alternative medication or behavioral therapies fail to alleviate the symptoms.