There is an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the United States. Many people abuse drugs that are prescribed for injuries, family members or other medical reasons. While the prescription may start out as a tool to aid in recovery, the feelings that they cause can lead to dependency and addiction. The Center for Disease Control has release a statistic stating that from 1999 to 2014 there have been more than 165,000 drug overdoses in the United States. The epidemic of opioid prescription drug abuse and heroin in the United States has been a very hot topic over the past view years because it seems to be increasing in severity. By understand the facts surrounding prescription drug abuse, the pill culture and warning signs, we hope to help assist in guiding others to get help.

Current Facts about Prescription Drug Abuse

In 2014, more people died from drug overdose than any other year on record. Prescription drugs are powerful tools usually given to help aid in recovery from injuries or other medical conditions. The use of drugs to help in the medical field has taken place since the dawn of time, it’s not a new concept to use different chemicals, plant and other substances to aid in medical attention. Along with anything that makes one feel better, there is a danger in dependency, addiction and having these things get out of hand.

Specifically, opioid pain relievers and prescription drugs are very common when it comes to overuse, abuse and addiction. Related drugs like heroin are also abused more and more. Opioid pain relievers include: oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.  There are specific receptors in the brain that function as an opioid receptor. These receptors are responsible for providing pain relief and pleasure.

Basic psychology teaches us that our brain responds extremely well to rewards. This is how addiction starts. We give our bodies a drug, the brain registers that as a reward and wants to seek it out again. This reward seeking behavior leads to unhealthy addictions. The rate at which opioids are prescribed as increased drastically in the last few years. In 2012, there were 259 million prescriptions written for opioids. With more of these drugs being readily available, most people don’t exercise enough responsibility and don’t understand the severity of being in possession of these drugs. Even when prescribed and used as directed, addictions can form. There have been instances where family members or friends have be prescribed opioids and people that are close to them have stolen them because they have developed an addiction. It’s important to know just how serious these drugs are.

There are 78 people in the United States that die each day from an opioid overdose. Of those that use heroin, it is estimated that 23% of them develop an opioid addiction and 4 out of 5 heroin users started out abusing opioids. Drug overdoes is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States with over 47,000 in 2014 alone. But the most scary statistic is the reason why people began using heroin. The American Society of Medicine released a Facts and Figures document that stated 94% of those surveyed on their heroin use said they only started using the drug because they had become addicted to prescription opioids and they were harder to get and more expensive than heroin.

The young people in the United States are joining the epidemic. Many children from 12-17 years of age abuse prescription opioids. Most of them start using medications without knowing the severity of casual use. Friends share unused pain pills or family members give them to people after they no longer have a need innocently thinking that they are helping out. However, this practice is dangerous and can put many people in danger. Not only is sharing medication a bad idea, it is illegal – for good reason! In 2014 there were over 460,000 teenagers in the United States that were using prescription drugs non-medically.

Educating The Pill Culture

As mentioned previously, many people share unused prescriptions drugs innocently. They simply don’t understand the severity of having these kinds of pills around. Prescription drug abuse is a very dangerous reality. Educating our children, teenagers, friends and family members on the consequences of non-medical use of prescription drugs can help curb this epidemic.

While sharing prescriptions is a bad idea, keeping unused medications around can put you in harms way. If you casually mention an injury or using a prescription and the wrong person becomes aware of your possession, they may try to get them by force. People that abuse prescriptions may not fit a certain stereotype or appear to be addicted. It is smart to take precaution.

In the past, people that had leftover prescription drugs flushed the or put them down the sink. While that was effective in making the drugs unobtainable by the wrong people, there are quite a few environmental concerns. The Seattle Times release an article just last month about finding heroin, anti-depressants and other drugs in a sample of Salmon in the Puget Sound. They sampled the water in different areas as well as the fish and were quite surprised at the variety of harmful substances that were found.

To safely dispose of unused pain medications, ask your local family doctor. Many Pharmacies have a return program to dispose of the drugs safely. The FDA also advises contacting local law enforcement agencies to ask about safely disposing of prescription drugs.

If no disposal instructions are given on the prescription drug labeling and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash following these steps:

Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds, dirt or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).

Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

FDA’s Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., offers a few more tips:

Scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.

Do not give your medicine to friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on your specific symptoms and medical history. Something that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

When in doubt about proper disposal, ask your pharmacist.

FDA: How to Dispose…

Warning Signs of Addiction

If you are concerned that some one you know has developed a prescription drug addiction, action needs to be taken. Some of the warning signs of drug abuse are: chronic constipation, nausea, drowsiness, confusion and poor coordination.

Mayo Clinic also posted these signs to watch for if you think some one may have a prescription drug addiction:

Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
Taking higher doses than prescribed
Excessive mood swings or hostility
Increase or decrease in sleep
Poor decision-making
Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

MayClinic – Diseases & Conditions; Prescription Drug Abuse

In some situations, people that have a prescription drug abuse problem may also be affected by mental health conditions. Taking drugs, drinking alcohol and engaging in certain behaviors can be related to a mental health condition. By taking these substances or engaging in certain activities it can distract from symptoms of a mental health condition and in a way they are self medicating. These activities provide relief, but only temporarily. The other consequences that come along with self medicating can make other co-occurring conditions worse. Professionals trained in dual diagnosis techniques can help identify these problems. This also contributes to the argument for finding a treatment program to aid in recovery. It may not be that a client just needs to get over an addiction, they may need treatment for mental have or behavioral health conditions. Many people that have Borderline Personality Disorder abuse substances to help diminish symptoms.

What To Do & Finding Treatment Options

If you think that some one has developed an addiction or if you have been prescribed opioids and have become dependent, seek help. Professional medical attention is very important to help balance the chemicals in your body and safely detox. Along with mental health concerns, prescription drug abuse often has a stigma attached to it that really doesn’t need to be a point of judgement or embarrassment. It’s a serious problem that deserve the proper attention and care. There are thousands and millions of people that have been through prescription drug abuse problems, mental health conditions and other challenges. Seeking help is always the best course of action.

Prescription drug abuse is a very real epidemic in the United States with focus on opioids and heroin. Educating yourself on this epidemic can help to curb the statistics and make people aware of just how dangerous prescriptions can be. In our pill culture, we see prescription medicine innocently and don’e understand just how powerful they can be when misused. Take prescriptions seriously and seek medical attention if you think misuse has occurred.

For those that have used heroin and other drugs, a residential treatment facility like New Roads can provide the right medical attention and mental health support to make recovery possible.  Please give call for more information: 1-888-358-8998