Stereotypes of drug addiction are changing. People may expect that an addiction started due to drugs being passed around at a high school party, or a young adult’s drug-laced family environment drew them in. But today it’s just as likely that a craving began due to surgery experienced by an older person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health continually relay dire statistics of the harmful use of prescription painkillers. Family members, physicians and state governments are trying to find ways to prevent addiction to a drug that is supposed to help rather than harm.
Risks for Prescription Drug Abuse
Researchers are investigating why some people become addicted to painkillers and others do not, finding that the following types of individuals are more likely to abuse prescription painkillers:
- Those who are frequent users of painkillers
- Those who have a low tolerance for pain
- Those who have a previous history of substance abuse.
Risks for Seniors
As seniors age their bodies require more care. Muscles and bones, already in more pain from years of use, are also more prone to injury. Pain becomes a part of their life, but can sometimes become unbearable. Daily medication for blood pressure, cholesterol and other issues cause mean a battery of pills is already habit, and a surgery or injury could add prescription painkillers to this list of meds. Aging also slows the process by which a drug is expelled from the body. As a body’s metabolism slows down it takes longer for the body to break down a drug as it slowly moves through the body. Because of this delay, painkillers remain in the body longer able and do more damage to a senior.
Risks for Teens
Instead of a slower metabolism, the biggest risks for teens are their feelings of invincibility and false sense of safety. Teens have had it drilled into them that cocaine and heroin are dangerous, but a medicine prescribed by a doctor being just as harmful tends not to compute for them. Teens may think that prescriptions drugs are a “safer” way to get high, but these drugs can become addictive, too. Some people have turned to illicit drugs when doctors limit or halt a person’s prescription painkillers. Before they realized it they’ve become a drug addict.
States are Combating Prescription Drug Abuse
Because prescription painkillers are more potent than natural opioids like morphine they often carry a greater risk of being addictive. And a person doesn’t have to be taking them for a long period of time for a fatal overdose to happen. In order to help prevent addictions states like Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New York and Washington are creating laws and requirements for medical clinics, physicians, pharmacists and patients. Some states are enforcing the use of prescription record databases to monitor patients’ use, setting dosage limits and using drug screenings. While drug wars against illicit drugs are still important to fight, a new war on legal prescription painkiller abuse is raging throughout America.