Just because a doctor prescribes medicines to people does not mean those drugs are safe when not used properly. In 2010, drug overdoses caused 38,000 deaths in America. Almost half of these deaths were from prescription painkiller overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health specialists hope to spread more awareness about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs and the life-threatening dangers that it may cause.
Many people start taking drugs for legitimate pain. An injury or surgery may necessitate the onset of taking painkillers. For some people, those painkillers do their job, the patient quits using them, and then life goes back to normal. For others, like professional athletes, those with chronic pain, or those who have had to rely on pain medication for weeks, they risk developing a physical or mental dependency on the painkillers.
Patients Exaggerating Pain, Meds From Multiple Doctors
Doctors can help monitor how much medication can be safely prescribed, but some patients exaggerate their pain or get pain medicines from multiple doctors. Others find it easy to get extra pain medicine from their friends or family members. They begin to like the invincible feeling it gives them and the high that they feel from it. Nearly one in 20 Americans admitted that they started using prescription painkillers even though medically they did not need them.
The easier availability of prescription painkillers has influenced an increase in the number of drug overdoses over the last decade. In 2010, the number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers was 16,651 compared to only 4,030 deaths in 1999. Researchers say that more people die from prescription drug overdose than from heroin or cocaine combined.
Prescription Drug Addiction And Overdose
For their safety, doctors put limits on how many painkillers they prescribe to each patient. Some patients feel such a need for the drugs that they turn to more dangerous drugs like heroin when they are refused prescription drugs. A habit that might start with legitimate pain medication can develop into a drug addiction that could lead to an overdose and death.
Prescription abuse can be avoided and prevented by those who take the painkillers and by the family and friends of those who take them. Those who take painkillers should only take as much as directed by their doctor. If they feel they are becoming dependent on them, they should talk with their health provider immediately to make a safe plan to control their pain.
Prescription Drug Awareness, Precautions
In order to help prevent others from acquiring an opioid addiction, those who get prescriptions from a doctor should not “helpfully” give them to a friend or family member. That person may already be getting prescription painkillers and/or other pills from other people, too. Keeping drugs securely stored will also prevent young adults from accessing prescriptions from home medicine cabinets. Being aware of how much medicine is in the home will also help parents notice if any pills are mysteriously disappearing off the shelves.
Through awareness of this growing problem, patients, caregivers, and doctors can help keep a watchful eye out for those at risk of prescription drug abuse.