The rise in prescription drug abuse by teenagers and adults seems to be in the news more these days. A recent Reuters article has some alarming stats to illustrate the problem. According to the article, federal data shows that overdose deaths fueled by prescription drugs now surpass motor vehicle deaths as the nation’s No. 1 cause of accidental death in the 45-54 age group. Federal data also shows nearly 7 million Americans abused prescription drugs in 2007, up 80% since 2000. That’s more than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and inhalants such as marijuana combined.
Containing prescription drug abuse is extremely difficult. There is limited legislation for the monitoring of prescription drugs and their sources, however, this is not available in all states. Many people have mastered the art of “doctor shopping” to get more of the drugs they need. The Internet also has a wide range of prescription drugs available to anyone with a credit card, with many sites not requiring a prescription. Kids look no further than their parents medicine cabinet to get their fix. And some parents are tricked into thinking that prescription pills aren’t as bad as illegal drugs since they originally came from a credible source.
There’s also the problem of doctors prescribing drugs before helping their patients in other ways. CNN.com ran an AP article yesterday about psychiatrists using psychotherapy, or talk therapy, less and prescribing pills more. Despite the effectiveness of talk therapy, insurance companies reimburse at a lower rate for a 45-minute psychotherapy visit than for three 15-minute medication visits, the article explained.
So far, there hasn’t been much talk about how the U.S. is going to tackle this problem. Legislation can help track who’s prescribing to whom and how often, but there needs to be more education about prescription drugs and their dangers. August was named National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in a resolution introduced by Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). The resolution calls for “community involvement and participation in efforts to educate parents about the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse among teens.”
It’s time for America to start paying attention to its addiction to prescription drugs.
From Reuters: US grapples with rising prescription drug addiction
From CNN.com: Study: Less talk, more pills from psychiatrists
From JoinTogether.org: August Named National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month
From this blog: Posts on Prescription Drugs