The growing prescription drug epidemic is devastating lives regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Although many have a preconceived notion of what a drug addict may look like, the face of addiction has changed dramatically. No longer is addiction a problem that only plagues the young and disadvantaged. The war on prescription drugs is reaching far into demographics and populations we may not realize.
As people live longer, the need for healthcare services grows immensely. Older generations that may require surgery or medication to manage the aches and pains of aging are one of the largest groups affected by addiction in the United States. Their drug of choice is legally obtained through prescriptions from doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, or other medical professionals. With no way to truly measure the amount of pain or discomfort patients express, many are able to obtain powerful painkillers relatively easily.
How are We Addressing the Prescription Drug Epidemic
Reducing the number of prescriptions written for painkillers and other powerful medications is just the first step of many. In addition to addressing the issues surrounding doctor shopping, it is important to address the ease of accessibility in homes. One of the greatest influences in prescription drug abuse is the misconception surrounding the safety of these medications. Due to the fact that these medications are prescribed by doctors, many believe they are safer than more illicit substances. Prescription drugs can me found in most American households, which means they are readily accessible to anyone else who enters the home. This can make adolescents particular susceptible to experimentation and often leads to full-blown addiction in a short period of time.
Fortunately, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse. A recent string of celebrity deaths at the hands of prescription drugs has highlighted the dangers of abuse and the extent to which these medications affect anyone and everyone. Legendary singer Prince recently passed away from an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers, drawing attention to the growing opioid abuse problem spreading throughout the country. Prince’s death also highlighted demographic most impacted by prescription drug abuse: older adults. This group often has plenty of money to spend, access to multiple doctors, and helping hands to help cloak the warning signs that may begin to be observable. In fact, a higher percentage of older adults are becoming addicted to painkillers because of their need to minimize the aches and pains that come with aging. Over time, tolerance to painkillers builds, and this—coupled with a slowing metabolism–has powerful effects on users. It does not take a long time for addiction to develop, but once it does, it is difficult to overcome.
While this sort of problem seems like it should have an easy solution, the prescription drug abuse problem continues to spiral out of control. California has recently taken steps to respond to the problems associated with doctor shopping and ease of accessibility to prescription drugs. With the introduction of Senate Bill 482, doctors would be required to check a database for patient prescriptions from other doctors before prescribing medications. While this database currently exists, Doctors are not required to check it and many patients go to multiple doctors to maximize the number of prescription drugs they can get. By enforcing the database check, lawmakers hope to reduce the availability of narcotics to those who abuse them.
A New War on Prescription Drugs: Addressing the Problem
Prescription drug addiction is often goes undiscovered until it has progressed relatively far. In the early stages of addiction, many fail to recognize the warning signs of an increasing problem. Retired, anxious, older adults with aching bodies and access to prescription medications and alcohol for self-medication are often the least likely suspects of addiction, but are at a very high risk. Senate Bill 482 is an important step to take in addressing prescription drug abuse, but much more has to be done. One of the biggest areas to address is the need for education surrounding the risk factors for addiction, the dangers of prescription drug abuse, and the ways in which it can be most effectively treated. Withdrawal from prescription painkillers can be just as dangerous as the addiction itself, so helping individuals connect with resources to assist in the recovery process is critical. A new treatment team may be just what a person needs to become clean and sober from the effects of mind and mood-altering substances.
Is someone in your family struggling with addiction?
Call 800.465.0142 to speak with an admissions counselor.