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Prescription Drug Addiction

November 19, 2010

For Americans, Prescription Drug Abuse May Pave a Wide Path to Illicit Drug Use

America’s war on street drugs routinely garners headlines but much less attention is given to our problem with prescription drug abuse, despite the fact that it is more widespread than abuse of all types of illicit drugs combined, excepting only marijuana. And despite their therapeutic purposes, controlled prescription drugs can be just as deadly as heroin, cocaine or other street drugs.

Americans are so accustomed to trusting the medical community that they don’t have the same sense of danger about these drugs that they do with street drugs. Children are given prescription drugs throughout their childhoods. Can it be damaging to raid the medicine cabinet, accept a few pills from a friend or order your own supply from an unscrupulous Internet site? It can be bad enough to account for 23 percent of all drug-related emergency room admissions and more than 20 percent of all single drug-related emergency room deaths. ER admissions from this cause have grown three to four times faster than admissions for heroin or cocaine use.

And youth are by no means the only victims of this trend. Many adults are prescribed sleep aids, antidepressants or painkillers for legitimate complaints and then may develop a dependence or slide into abuse.

One of the most frequently abused drugs is OxyContin, an opioid (opium-like) painkiller. The strength of OxyContin made it a valuable painkiller for those people suffering from severe pain that no other painkiller would touch. The higher dosage was made safe for use by administering it in a time-release formulation. The downside: all abusers had to do was to crush or dissolve the tablet to thwart its time-release mechanism. The result of abuse was a high similar to heroin.

 

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