Looking for the Roots of Prescription Drug Abuse
> 12/29/2005 1:33:39 PM

The big winner in this year's Monitoring the Future report was prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs saw gains in percentages in almost every year of student surveyed. And ever since the survey was released a couple of weeks back, the debate has centered on who should be faulted for this troubling trend.

In an essay from the Health section of yesterday's New York Times Dr. Howard Markel suggests that the blame might be placed with a more unexpected group. Dr. Markel, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, has seen the effects of prescription drug addiction as a substance abuse counselor. In his essay Markel describes a run in with a young female with a serious drug abuse problem. Although she had tried most everything, his counselee had recently developed a taste for Oxycontin. When he began to probe the situation, he found that his patient had recently been prescribed 80 pills of Oxycontin after a routine tonsillectomy. Markel makes the point that a much weaker painkiller would have more than sufficed to deal with the relatively light pain following his patient's operation. Beyond that, the girl had a history of prescription drug abuse that was ignored by the doctor who prescribed Oxycontin.

Markel took it upon himself to question the prescribing doctor about his actions:
The morning after hearing about Mary's Oxycontin holiday, I called her surgeon and asked him whether he had read her medical chart detailing an extensive history of substance abuse. "Why did you prescribe this narcotic bazooka when a BB gun of a painkiller such as acetaminophen might have done the trick?" I asked.

Sheepishly, the surgeon replied, "Well, I guess I wasn't thinking."

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