The Food and Drug Administration wants stronger restrictions on a class of prescription painkillers that…
New Faces of Addiction Break the Mold
As the prescription drug abuse epidemic takes hold in the United States – with few signs of releasing its grip – Americans have had to adjust their ideas about what the average face of substance abuse looks like.
Some of the groups affected in the most significant numbers by the prescription drug epidemic are among the last people who have traditionally been associated with substance abuse. These include seniors, children and even medical doctors.
Children and Teenagers
It is nothing new for young people to experiment with drugs, and the late teens and early 20s are often the years during which people develop problems with drug use. However, prescription drugs are drawing younger and younger folks into the world of drug misuse, drug dependence and addiction.
Prescription drugs are present in most households, and it can be relatively easy for young people to get ahold of such medications. Some may intentionally abuse them in order to experiment with getting high, while others may use various drugs for unintended purposes such as weight loss or help with studying. Many young people mistakenly assume that prescription medications are completely safe, since they come from a doctor, and do not realize the potential for dangerous side effects as well as dependence or addiction that can come with misusing or abusing prescription drugs.
Studies estimate that about 17 percent of all teenagers abuse prescription drugs, and about 8 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that prescription drug abuse is also the main reason behind an 80-percent increase in the number of children who died from poisoning in 2010.
If prescription drug abuse is becoming a problem for more people early in life, it is affecting even more people late in life. Seniors are extremely vulnerable to prescription drug misuse and abuse thanks to a variety of aggravating factors.
First, many seniors have legitimate prescriptions for a large number of medications that they use to address many areas of declining health. Managing so many prescriptions can become difficult, and many seniors unintentionally misuse their medications because they have confused their proper dosages and frequency at which they are to take them. Decline in short-term memory and eyesight can also exacerbate the problem.
Other seniors have fixed incomes and transportation limitations that make it hard for them to visit their doctors frequently in order to ask questions or have their dosages adjusted. As a result, some seniors will increase their dosages on their own or otherwise tinker with their medications without consulting a medical professional.
Unfortunately, some seniors also lead fairly isolated lives, which means that misuse can often develop into dependence or even addiction before anyone recognizes that there is a problem.
Doctors and Drug Abuse
If any group of people should understand the risks of substance misuse and abuse, it’s doctors. As a result, it seems reasonable to expect that doctors would have lower rates of substance abuse than the general population.
In reality, studies have found that doctors abuse drugs and alcohol at about the same rate as the general population. And when it comes to prescription medications, a 2013 study from the University of Florida suggested that doctors abuse these drugs at a higher rate than the rest of the population.
Many doctors deal with significant stress in their work, and the majority of doctors who report abusing prescription drugs say that they use them for stress relief rather than recreation.
It is illegal for doctors to self-prescribe drugs, but many have a comparatively easy time acquiring medications because they work closely with other doctors and with pharmacists. Some doctors may also assume that because they are aware of the risks of prescription drug abuse, they will have an easier time avoiding them.