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Prescription drug abuse an epidemic, says CDC

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Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing problem in the U.S. with more than 15,500 deaths occurring annually as a result of a fatal overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the CDC stated that prescription drugs cause more accidental deaths in this country than car accidents.

Medline Plus defines prescription drug abuse as the intentional use of a medication in a way that wasn’t prescribed for the feeling it creates.

In 2007, an estimated 27,000 Americans died from unintentional drug overdose, and in 2009 that number jumped to nearly 38,000. Varying arguments explain the rise in prescription drug abuse.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy suggests that some, “particularly teens believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and dispensed by a pharmacist.”

Others say the use of pain medications can start off as legitimate, like the need to alleviate pain after surgery, but the euphoric feeling the drugs give causes them to crave more of it until it turns into an addiction.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that more than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs got them from family or friends, and five percent bought the drugs online. Internet pill mills are a growing problem. Drug dealers – and their tourists, who travel from state to state – often get the drugs by doctor shopping or robbing pharmacists. CBN News reported that drug store robbery increased 81 percent in the past five years.

Over-the-counter medications are just as dangerous. Several store-bought drugs like Tylenol contain the active ingredient acetaminophen. As we reported on Consumer Drug Report, acetaminophen damages the liver and kidneys when taken in high doses. However, some people mix multiple pain medications together, thinking it will help get rid of pain faster. Unfortunately, they, too, are risking an overdose.

Failure to follow the directions on any drug label can also increase this risk.

So what has the government done in regard to this issue?

In 2010, the Obama Administration introduced the National Drug Control Strategy designed to take action in four areas to reduce prescription drug abuse:

  • Education about appropriate and safe use, proper storage, and disposal of prescription drugs
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs in every state to combat doctor shopping
  • Proper medication disposal programs
  • Law enforcement.

What do you think about the rise in prescription drug abuse? What should be done about it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.