The Addiction of America |
The Abuse of Prescription Drugs in the United States |
Sean Barnes |
Western Governors University |
The abuse of prescription drugs in the United States has reached epidemic proportions and continues to get worse. Most people, however, do not realize how big the problem really is. It continues to get worse every year and it demands our attention. In 2011, just three short years ago, an estimated 52 million people in the United States over the age of 12 had used prescription drugs for a non-medical reason (National survey on drug use, 2011). The most commonly abused prescription drugs are pain relievers. Why are people abusing these drugs ...view middle of the document...
So why do so many people intentionally or unintentionally abuse prescription medications? With regards to the pain relievers, the answer can be simple. People do not want to be in pain. Pain hurts and no-one wants to be in pain. The pills are there, so why not take them? However, as previously stated, taking these types of medications outside of how they are supposed to be taken is abuse. When used for pain control only, prescription pain relievers are unlikely to cause dependence, addiction, or lead to abuse. However, when they are used for purposes outside of their intended use, taken too frequently or when they are not needed at all, dependence can occur. Dependence happens when the body develops a tolerance to the drug. In other words, higher and higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect. Dependence leads to addiction. Addiction occurs when the person who has a dependence on the drug displays psychological effects such as craving the drug, continued use of the drug despite negative outcomes and compulsive behavior in order to get the drug (“Painkillers and narcotic abuse”, n.d.).
Next, we need to look at where people who are abusing prescription pain relievers are getting them from. The overwhelming majority, 54.2%, are getting them free, from a friend (“Popping pills”, n.d.). Coming in at a far second place, 18.1%, are the people who are getting them from a single Primary Care Provider (“Popping pills”, n.d.). In third place, 16.6%, are the people who buy them from a friend (“Popping pills”, n.d.). The rest obtain them from drug dealers, the Internet, other medical providers or other sources.
Just how, exactly, does this affect the United States as a whole? It is crippling. Chawla (2011) states that the non-medical use of pain relievers now show higher annual prevalence rates than cocaine (p. 38). That is an impressive number, which suggests that our Primary Care Providers are too liberal with writing prescriptions and not involved enough in patient care to get to the root of the problem. In fact, Primary Care Providers are writing so many prescriptions for pain relievers that every American adult can take one pill every four hours for an entire month!(3) It has been estimated that approximately 48 million people in the United States have abused prescription drugs, which affects 20% of the population (National council, n.d.). Chief among those affected are the elderly, teenagers and young women, aged 12-17.
The elderly population is at risk for several different reasons. The first being that as we age, our body’s change the way they absorb, release and excrete medications. Less medication may be needed to achieve the same result. Therefore, prescribing a typical amount of a certain type of medication may, in fact, be too much. Second, the elderly tend to have more than one healthcare provider. They may have a Primary Care Provider, a provider for their gastrointestinal problems, another for their arthritis, and yet another for...