The untimely death of Michael Jackson and the numerous allegations of possible prescription drug abuse have put an international spotlight on this important issue.
When you think of drug abuse, you might imagine a frantic crack addict handing over cash to a gang banger in a seedy part of town.
However, consider this portrait of drug abuse:
A middle-class person walks up to a pharmacist and hands him or her a forged prescription for some pain killers.
Amazingly, both images of drug abuse may be accurate.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), its National Survey on Drug Abuse indicated that the abuse of prescription drugs is rising rapidly in the United States. In fact, almost 3 million people aged 12 to 17 had used prescription medications non-medically in their lifetimes.
These non-medical purposes of prescription drugs include misusing them for recreation and for their psychological effects (i.e. to get high, to have fun, to get a lift, or to calm down).
The SAMHSA administrator stated that just because a medication is safe and even life-saving when used appropriately, it is not harmless if used inappropriately. He went on to say that the abuse of prescription drugs can lead to addiction, misdiagnosis of serious illness, life-threatening circumstances, and even death.
The statistics associated with prescription drug abuse are genuinely sobering: About 15 percent of 18-and 19-year-olds used prescriptions medications non-medically in the past year. About 8 percent of persons ages 12 to 17 reported non-medical use of prescription medications in the past year. About 12 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds used prescription medications non-medically.
Pain relievers, stimulants, tranquillizers, opioids, and anti-depressants are among the most commonly abused prescription medications.
Reports gathered from hospital emergency rooms bear out the breakneck rise of prescription drug abuse.
Visits to emergency departments, for example, increased extensively from 1994 to 2001 for narcotic prescription pain relievers. Visits naming oxycodone increased 352 percent; methadone 230 percent; morphine 210 percent; and hydrocodone 131 percent.
Even more surprising was the fact that data showed that persons coming to hospital emergency rooms often used more than one drug, with multiple drugs being mentioned in 72 percent of the emergency department visits involving narcotic prescription pain medications.
The good news is that SAMHSA has teamed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch a public education effort focused on the real hazards associated with the abuse of prescription drugs.
The first products of this new joint endeavor include posters, brochures, and print advertisements related to the dangers of abusing prescription pain relievers. Although these educational resources are targeted to 14- to 25-year-olds, these materials are relevant for anyone who uses prescription pain medications for non-medical purposes.
Important, please note: For information on this topic, be sure to check with your medical professional, and log on to samhsa.gov and fda.gov.
My Final Thoughts: The abuse of illegal drugs has had horrible consequences to numerous families and communities within the U.S. And as such, the bulk of our nation’s drug fighting and prevention recourses have been dedicated to that critical battle.
It is also imperative, however, to pull the issue of prescription drug abuse from the murky shadows to the spotlight.
The government’s education endeavor is the first vital step towards this essential goal.
Prescription drug abuse is a real problem with serious consequences, and only by tackling it head-on will we make the opening efforts to hopefully slow, and even reduce, its rapid and merciless escalation within the very fabric of our country.
Bruce Mandelblit (www.Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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