It is not unusual for legitimate use of doctor prescribed drugs to completely derail and in some cases claim a person’s life. In fact, it seems that the central theme of prescription drug abuse stories is the unexpected and often unbelievable transformation of those that become addicted to these highly addictive pain medications.
As Angela remembers her journey into addiction story, “I went from being a full time mom, college student and productive member of society to being a criminal, thief, prostitute, IV drug user and a source of grief and embarrassment for all who loved me.” Fortunately for Angela, she was able to stop the abuse, and find the redemption and forgiveness from her loved ones that she said she never believed was possible.
The truth about prescription drugs is that they are as addictive and potentially deadly as any illicit substance. In his quest to bring awareness to this fact, film maker Chris Bell’s produced a documentary called “Prescription Thugs” that unveiled America’s intolerance for pain. It also revealed the lack of sufficient government oversight to protect citizens from the rampant dispensation of drugs that turn millions into drug addicts. Even while making this documentary, Bell was reportedly dealing with his own struggle with prescription addiction. According to Bell, many times during the filming he found himself scouring urgent care clinics in search of Xanax pills.
In recent years, the abuse of prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions. Based on data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse the non-medical use of prescription drugs has become a serious public health problem for America. In fact, surveys indicate that an estimated 52 million people twelve years of age and older have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at least once in their lifetimes. According to NIDA and Monitoring the Future (MTF) data, approximately one in twelve high school seniors reported past-year non-medical use of Vicodin and another 1 in 20 abused OxyContin in 2010.
Among these, an estimated 14% met the criteria, according to NIDA for abuse or dependence on these powerful prescription pills. While dependence and addiction can be treated, the sad reality is that many people typically do not seek or receive help for prescription drug addiction in a timely manner. As a result, the National overdose deaths are at alarming rates.
Based on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there has been a 3.4% increase in the total number of death from prescription pain medication between 2001 and 2014. Although not every story about these make it into the news, celebrities like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Heath ledger were highlighted in Bell’s exposition of the lives cut short by misuse of these substances.
A common misconception about prescription drugs is that they are not as dangerous as street drugs like cocaine, heroin or meth. This erroneous belief is a major reason many people do not seek help or wait until their use of these substances has segued into illicit drug use. And, while a drug overdose death is not the fate everyone who abuse prescription pills meet, the devastation of addiction and all that it connotes makes seeking treatment to stop the abuse of utmost urgency.
Treatment for a dependence or addiction to prescription medication requires the same comprehensive continuum of care as any other substance addiction. In fact, the withdrawal symptoms for prescriptions medications can, in some instances, be even more severe and life-threatening than illicit substances. Overall, early treatment may help to mitigate the addiction risks as well as reduce the potential for relapse.
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