Prescription Drug Addiction Reaches Across the Board

In case you haven’t noticed the trend, prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Prescription drugs are the second most abused substance in this country right after marijuana according to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Saying that the problem is one of epidemic proportions, the CDC reports that more than 5,000 people start abusing prescription medications every day in America.

The problem of celebrity addiction to prescription drugs is splashed across grocery store check-out magazine racks. But teens, who idolize those stars, are also abusing the drugs, as are sports figures, business executives and even moms and dads.

A few things are combining to create this perfect storm of drug addiction. To begin with, there are more prescriptions (particularly for painkillers) than ever before being written. Just between the years 2000 and 2009 there was a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of prescriptions issued by doctors for opioid painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.

Another reason the problem has ballooned so greatly, is that these drugs are easy to get. There are pill mills which are phony pharmacies and bogus medical offices where the drugs are readily sold, and others who engage in doctor shopping, which means that they go to see several physicians with the same complaint and collect painkiller prescriptions to feed their habit.

But a person, especially a teenager, doesn’t have to do any of that. According to the CDC, 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs, get them from the bathroom cabinet or take a friend’s medication. A mere five percent buy their illicit prescription drugs through an online pharmacy or a drug dealer.

Sadly, many people, including teens and adults, are fooled into thinking that these drugs are safer to use than other kinds of drugs but this is simply not true. Prescription drugs are the new gateway drug. One-third of first time teen drug users in 2009, took prescription medications for non-medical reasons. Prescription painkillers are one of the top three substances most abused by teens and overdoses of prescription drugs now kill more people than die in automobile crashes.

Perhaps because of this false sense of safety concerning prescriptions, many Americans are mixing the drugs. Heath Ledger and Whitney Houston are just two examples of well-known stars that mixed pharmaceuticals and paid for it with their lives. Lindsay Lohan has a highly publicized habit of abusing alcohol and painkillers. Teens are following their example by combining painkillers, anti-anxiety meds or even over-the-counter sleep aids and antihistamines. All these drugs depress central nervous system functions like breathing and heartbeat. Mix those drugs with another depressant like alcohol and you are likely to pass out and never wake up. It’s time to talk with our kids about the real danger prescription drugs pose.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.