In recent years, we have seen a growing trend, a dangerous trend that has unfortunately, cost people’s lives. While years ago drug addiction was related to street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, we now see the dangers of prescription drug addiction. In fact, trips to hospital emergency rooms for prescription drug abuse from 2000 to 2002 rose a staggering 56%. Because of the huge problem, a number of new programs have been established to help educate doctors, parents, and even children.
Unfortunately, doctors find themselves in a very difficult position, especially when it comes to treating chronic illness. For instance, treating people with painful illnesses such as MS, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or Arthritis often requires narcotics to keep the pain at bay. For these people, pain medication allows them a chance to live a relatively normal life. However, the problem arises when someone has a temporary injury and finds narcotics more of a stimulant than a treatment for the pain. With narcotics being addictive, it is easy to understand why people with temporary injuries become hooked.
The good news is that for people taking prescription medication for the excitement and the high rather than for the illness, addiction is a treatable disease of the brain. As more and more doctors become educated about the dangers of prescription drug addiction and the signs to watch for, the problem is being better addressed. The truth is that for people, who truly need prescription drugs, the situation is frustrating but as doctors gain more knowledge and confidence associated with drug abuse, they play a vital role in separating the real needs from the false ones.
Today, as much as 95% of all psychiatry residency programs throughout the United States are now offering education associated with prescription drug addiction. On the other hand, less than 30% of medical fields such as pediatric address the potential problem. Obviously, as more and more children are learning that they can get hold of parent or grandparent’s prescriptions, educating these families, as well as doctors is vital.
Currently, the United States has more than 19 million regular prescription drug users. For many of these people, the prescription drugs treat a chronic illness, again giving them quality of life but for others, the prescription drugs were administered as a solution for a temporary condition that has lead to addiction. In this case, doctors need to play a huge role in intervention for patients who do not need long-term care and those who have not yet become addicted to them.
To combat the problem of prescription drug addiction, the federal government is putting programs in place for intervention, screening, referral, and even treatment. Many of these programs are being incorporated into businesses to help employees get through the addiction. The key really falls back to the doctors in taking the time to know their patients, to understand the illness, and then to work closely with the patient when prescribing the medication. For example, someone with a rare disease or illness that is extremely painful would require the doctor to educate him or herself on this problem so that proper treatment could be provided and then monitored.
The bottom line is that ongoing education is the key to the dangers of prescription medication, which takes time and persistence.