Prescription drug abuse is a modern-day disease. In an estimate, over six million Americans have abused prescription medication. However, there is no completely accurate way to measure prescription drug abuse. Many people suffer from addiction because of certain doctors’ carelessness in writing prescriptions. When doctors’ are caught intentionally over prescribing abused medications, they are typically the punishment for their crimes is very small. Young adults are also beginning to abuse prescription drugs by illegally purchasing them from the prescription holder and using them as study or party drugs.
Prescription drug abuse has torn apart families, destroyed lives, and has even resulted in death. Some people think that by focusing on prescription drug abuse, we may scare physicians away from reasonably prescribing helpful medications for patients who really need them (Prescription Drug Abuse, 2002). The most common reason people go to the doctor is for pain. Doctors all over the country wonder how they can prescribe accurate medications so the patient is relieved of pain without becoming addicted to that medication. Many doctors underprescribe powerful painkillers.
They overestimate the potential for patients becoming addicted to painkillers such as morphine and codeine. When doctors limit pain medication, thousands of patients suffer needlessly. Doctors’ fear that patients will become addicted to pain medication is known as “opiophobia”. “Opiates, including morphine and codeine, and synthetic opioids, such as Demerol and Fentanyl, work by mimicking the endogenous opioid peptides, pain- relieving chemicals produced in the body. These peptides bind chemically to opiate receptors, activating pain-relieving systems in the brain and spinal cord.
But opioids can cause undesirable side-effects such as nausea, sedation, confusion, and constipation. With prolonged use of opiates and opioids, individuals become tolerant to the drugs, required larger doses, and can become physically dependent on the drugs” (Bellenir, 2000, P. 120). The most common drugs susceptible to addiction are those prescribed for psychological problems. Some act on the mind, having a low potential for abuse and dependence. Examples are anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and lithium salts. Other, like barbiturates and amphetamines, have high potential.
Prescription Drug Abuse Trends Every year millions of prescription pills enter the illicit drug market. In 1993 prescription drugs were sold for about $25 billion in the illegal drug market. Enormous amounts of people in the U. S. use prescription drugs for the wrong reasons. Nationally, the federal government spends about $13. 5 billion on the drug war, but only $70 million goes to investigate prescription drug offenses. By having an accurate dosage, a high purity level, and a lower price, prescription pills have established a place next to regular street drugs.
Medical offices and pharmacies help supply a large amount of these drugs. “Doctor shoppers,” lie to doctors by claiming to have injuries or ailments to get prescriptions. A woman by the name of Vicki J. Renalso tricked 42 doctors and 26 pharmacies into giving her codeine tablets during an eightmonth period. There is no glory in catching doctors and pharmaceutical companies involved in this illegal drug trafficking. Media coverage is small due to the fact there are no guns and no bundles of cash for the world to see. Sometimes action is taken, but the results are usually small.
Very few doctors, dentists, and pharmacists are prosecuted annually for prescription fraud. Doctors, even when convicted, have very small sentences compared to those caught selling cocaine or marijuana. A certain Dr. Eric C. Tucker issued more than 7,000 questionable prescriptions for the stimulant Preludin and other 7,600 prescriptions for Dilaudid. More Dilaudid, also known as “drugstore heroin,” was distributed from Tucker’s office per year than from the LAC-USC Medical Center, the West Coast’s largest public hospital.
Tucker pleaded guilty and lost his medical license, but only served eight days in jail. On the other hand, Daniel G. Siemianowski was prosecuted in Los Angeles at about the same time as Tucker. He was arrested with four ounces of crack and was sentenced to a year in prison. In a research of an estimated 10 prescription frauds, one doctor received a short sentence; the other nine pleaded guilty and were put on probation. Part of the problem is that medical practitioners are usually charged under laws carrying low prison penalties.
The laws are written allowing health care professionals to escape serious drug trafficking charges, no matter how fraudulent. About 75% of physicians convicted of prescription drug crimes got to keep their license. Medical and pharmacy board investigators are seeking more court orders to suspend licenses after someone is arrested (Bellenir, 2000, P. 19, 20, 21). Prescription Drug Abuse in Young Adults According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “abuse of prescription drugs to get high has become increasingly prevalent among teens and young adults.
Past year abuse of prescription pain killers now ranks second-only behind marijuana-as the Nation’s most prevalent illegal drug problem. ” Use of prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription or only for the experience or feeling they cause is commonly referred to as “nonmedical” use. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, approximately 363,000 emergency department visits in 2007 involved the nonmedical use of pain relievers (including both prescription and over-the-counter [OTC] pain medications).
Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and Dexadrine, which are all classified as stimulants and have been dubbed “study drugs,” are being used on college campuses to increase energy, alertness, mood, and well-being. These “study drugs” come with their own set of risks if they are taken without a prescription, including irregular heartbeat, high body temperatures, cardiovascular failure, and seizures. Some OTC medications, such as cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan, have beneficial effects when taken as recommended; but they can also be abused and lead to serious adverse health consequences.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, among college students, friends and peers are the most common sources to obtain prescription drugs to use non-medically. Prescription drug abuse is a modern-day disease that affects millions of Americans. Sometimes people become addicted to painkillers and then start abusing them. Some even lie to their doctors to get more medication. A few of the drugs being abused are barbiturates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and appetite suppressants.
If people are not careful, overdose of these drugs could kill them. Even though there is little coverage of prescription drug abuse, it is continually happening. It can and does affect many in various ways. Sometimes doctors, dentists, or pharmacists are involved in illegal drug trafficking. However, if caught they receive small sentences. Young adults are also at risk for prescription drug abuse as students are using them as “study drugs” or “party drugs”. As we begin to see the effects of addiction, we need to be careful so we don’t abuse or misuse prescription medication.