Prescription Drug Abuse Outpaces Illegal Drug Abuse in Canada

Posted on August 13th, 2009

Addiction to anything can be hazardous to your health as it helps to create an unnatural balance of a specific substance in the body or the brain. When the addiction extends to drugs or alcohol, the consequences can be devastating.

Policymakers, doctors and educators continually examine the causes of addiction to substances in order to keep these substances away from youth and other normally healthy citizens in society. Now, reports are emerging that addiction may actually start in the hospital.

A recent news piece out of Vancouver highlights the reality that prescription drug misuse has turned into an epidemic. Psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Lim notes that public perception regarding the problem of illegal street drugs takes the focus away from the bigger problem existing within everyday medicine cabinets.

Opioids, or pain relievers, are the most commonly abused prescription drug, followed closely by benzodiazepines. The latter is used to treat such things as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, insomnia and stress as they affect the mind, behavior, and mood.

The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse found in 2002 that Canadians were among the heaviest consumers of such medications. In the world, they had the fourth highest per-capita use.

"Part of the problem is that North Americans expect that there’s a magic pill for everything, and they put pressure on physicians to give it to them," said Lim, medical consultant for Alberta Health Services’ opiate-dependency program.

The drugs are highly effective in the short term, but also very addictive. It is very well known that 10 to 15 percent of the population is at risk for developing substance dependency. Since 2005, the rate of individuals addicted to prescription drugs has outpaced the number of people getting hooked on marijuana.

"People don’t think of [prescription drugs] as an addiction because they’re prescribed to them initially, because they’re made by a drug company, and sanctioned by medical professionals," Lim said. "But that doesn’t mean their properties are any different from those of illicit drugs to the brain."

 

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