Physicians and the Prescription Drug Epidemic
> 3/15/2006 9:19:30 AM

According to a recent survey, close to 50 million Americans, ages 12 and older, have abused prescription drugs in their lifetime. That means more than 1 in 6 Americans has taken a prescription drug for non-medical, recreational purposes.

Perhaps most worrisome though is the fact that it is the youngest Americans who are at the greatest risk. Almost half of all prescription drug abuse is by those aged 12 to 25. 10% of 12th graders reported using amphetamines like Ritalin and Benzedrine without having been prescribed them in 2004. Non-medical use of opioids, tranquilizers and sedatives has also been on the rise in this age group. Harmful behavior patterns are being established earlier, and when combined with alcohol and other drugs, these prescription medicines are creating a deadly situation.

This epidemic of prescription drug abuse is the new tune of an old  song on college campuses that goes like this: students prescribed drugs from physicians  for ADHD share their scripts for recreational purposes like drinking games and longevity for all night binge drinking. Pain meds like Vicoden or even OxyContin find their way into an opiated haze of partying that is considered safer than using harder drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. The unlikely drug dealer in all of this is the local M.D.   

The number of abusers cited above has grown dramatically over the last several decades, with pain relievers accounting for a majority of the use. Codeine, Demerol, Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin are all examples of pain medications that are not only dangerous, but can be highly addictive as well. 

Often thought of as less dangerous than other illicit drugs, prescription medications have grown into a full-fledged abuse epidemic all their own. The problem comes in large part from the fact that the public is flooded with information about every new "miracle" drug. Doctors, who are often under-informed, either prescribe recklessly or are duped by patients that travel from one M.D.'s office to the next looking to pick up scripts. Fraudulent prescriptions and pharmacy robbery also help to get these drugs onto the streets. 

While the latter is certainly a law enforcement matter, a large portion of prescription drug abuse could be stopped if doctors simply learned to recognize and talk with their patients about prescription drug abuse, and stop letting their patients treat them like a street pusher. Many times a patient's drug addiction starts as a regularly prescribed painkiller, to deal with a broken leg perhaps or a prescription for attention problems or for panic anxiety. But unregulated by a physician, it is easy for the patient to ignore directions and acquire an addiction.  If not confronted by the doctor, this patient will continue to look for a way to meet their cravings, either faking symptoms or changing doctors if necessary. 

Studies have shown that many GPs are afraid to address the subject of prescription drug abuse with their patients. If change is going to come in this situation, it must start with the doctors. By putting these powerful drugs on the streets, they risk the lives of their patients and anyone else who might have access to the prescriptions. Regulation needs to come from those in the medical profession. But the word must also be spread to patients that prescription drug abuse is not harmless. Their rationalized belief, mentioned by many sufferers, that because the drugs came with a prescription, they are safe. This type of thinking is na´ve and can lead to disaster. 

The gloves need to come off regarding physician prescribing of addictive drugs. In states like New York, the "triplicate" mandate that all class II drugs need to be monitored by the state drastically reduced the presciptions of these drugs. These types of initiatives are effective, but do not address the whole problem. A better method would be for hospitals and physicians to be able to report anonymously a patient who is iatrogenically addicted and the physician or physicians involved in this outcome to a friendly agency. The reporting agency then could contact the physician and progressively educate without punitive action. Repeat offenders would need to have progressively more aggressive interventions. The behavior of physicians would change in a hurry if peer review called their treatments into question.

Use the link below to watch me discuss this problem in a vlog presentation.


Comments

What can I do if a doctor is prescribing too many drugs for my mother? It is getting worse, and I do not know where to turn to.Any help out there?
Posted by: Daughter In VA 2/27/2007 8:03:38 AM

I am at a loss as what to do for my wife of 35 years.She had an accident 6 yrs. ago and became dependant on many medications. After a couple of years she started taking to the streets after the doctors would no longer write scripts. This led to some serious financial and emotional difficulties. About a year ago she quit the street drugs (Lortab Xanax and any other painkillers she could get). She improved significantly in her mood and behavior. She has been taking numerous anti anxiety, anti depressants, etc. throughout this whole time. Her doctor for the last few years would no longer call for refills without seeing her. For what ever reason she switched to another doctor in the same clinic a few weeks ago. In the last few weeks she regressed greatly. I found a prescription bottle from the new doctor for 120 10mg Lortab (4 a day for 30 days). Is this appropiate?? We have 3 grown children and three grandchildren who with myself are very concerened. I would appreciate any advice.
Posted by: MPW 7/7/2007 5:23:33 AM

Abusing prescription drugs is not just a simple game. 50 million people only for US is a scary number. It's hard to find someone to blame here and this is not m y intention at this moment but I think these people need more informations and more cautions when taking these drugs. Actually Narconon program is quite familiar with such cases...
Posted by: gordman 9/24/2007 11:11:39 AM

how do I report Dr. whoses nurse is writing diet perscriptions?
Posted by: jay 2/1/2008 9:34:03 AM

Thank you very much for an enlightening and stimulating presentation.
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Posted by: Diaz 2/19/2008 4:05:12 AM

What is a physician supposed to do if a patient threatens to sue unless given a prescription for painkillers? Lawsuits are expensive and often settled even if the plaintiff doesn't have a case.There are two sides to this problem.
Posted by: anon 3/12/2008 10:33:01 AM

How do I report a doctor who keeps on prescribing Xanax to my son after repeated pleading not to renew his medication because he abuses it, not to mention he takes alcohol with it and becomes violent and starts hallucinating? This docctor also has increased his intake to almost ten a day. Please I need help. He has passed out from this habit & everytime my nerves are shot hoping he hasn't passed away from this. Also, my son has a pacemaker/defribillator and takes high blood and heart medications. I can't abandon my son whose wife has left him because he couldn't support her & their children in style she got accustomed to. Any suggestions?
Posted by: Marie 4/15/2008 10:31:30 AM



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