ARTICLE 1: According to National Institute on Drug Abuse director, Dr. Nora Volkow, the non-medical abuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing public health problem. The fact is that they are misused or abused by people from ages 12 to the senior population. The elderly are at risk for inappropriate use of drugs due to multiple medications that are prescribed for them. The interaction of the prescription medications may cause adverse side effects resulting in complications for the elderly patient. The younger population uses prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, constituting prescription drug abuse that contributes to drug addiction.
The abuse of certain prescription drugs – opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants – can alter the brain’s activity and lead to addiction. Opioids are commonly prescribed because of their effective pain-relieving properties, and are classified as prescription narcotics. Examples of this type opioid are OxyContin, Percodan, Percodet, Vicodin, etc. They are often used to relieve pain prior to and after surgical procedure. They can also induce euphoria by affecting the brain regions that cause what we perceive as pleasure. This feeling is often intensified for those who abuse opioids when administered by routes other than those recommended. Taken as prescribed and directed, opioids can be used to manage pain effectively. Properly managed, short-term medical use of opioid drugs is safe and rarely causes addiction.
Long-term use of opioids can lead to physicial dependence and addiction. Taking a large single dose of an opioid could cause severe respiratory depression that can lead to death. Opioids can be used safely with other drugs ONLY UNDER A PHYSICIAN’S CLOSE SUPERVISION.
Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants work within the brain to produce a drowsy or calming effect that is beneficial to those suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders, however, they have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed. During the first few days of taking a prescribed CNS depressant, a person usually feels sleepy and uncoordinated, but as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, these feelings disappear. If one uses the drugs long-term, the body will develop tolerance for the drugs and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same initial effect. Continued use can lead to dependence and when stopped, will cause withdrawal.
Healthcare providers, primary care physicians, pharmacists, and patients themselves all play a role in identifying and preventing drug abuse. Physicians can help by incorporating screening for prescription drug abuse into the routine medical visit and exam. Pharmacists can play a key role by providing clear information on how to take the prescribed medication, and by making patients aware of side effects and/or drug interactions. They can also assist by monitoring prescriptions for falsification or alterations and being aware of potential ‘doctor shopping’ where patients go from one physician to another getting prescriptions for narcotic drugs without one physician being aware of the other’s prescriptions.
It is important for the public to know the negative effect(s) that abusing narcotic drugs (illegal OR prescription) may cause. They include, but are not limited to, hostility or feelings of paranoia after taking high doses repeatedly over a short period of time, seizures following a rebound in brain activity after reducing or discontinuing use, dangerously high body temperature or an irregular heartbeat after taking high doses, cardiovascular failure or lethal seizures.