Prescription Drug Abuse Essay

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One of the fastest growing problems in America today is the abuse of prescription drugs. In the past 10 years, the misuse of prescribed medications has skyrocketed, making it a National issue that many people are attempting to attack. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse: opiates, depressants, and stimulants are the three drug classifications most commonly abused by Americans (Kendall 175). The abuse of opioids will be the main focus of this paper, however depressants and stimulants will be briefly discussed as well. A multitude of research on the subject has concluded that there is more than a single solution to the problem, involving taking immediate action as well as making prevention efforts. Looking at the…show more content…

Although the many negative effects have caused physicians to question the wide spread use of this drug, the main fuel to this problem’s fire is the drug’s addictive nature. Some medical journals have reported that “between four percent and twenty-six percent of those who take opioids for long-term pain treatment become addicted” and this addiction leads to the abuse of the drug.
Depressants and stimulants, although not as deadly as opiates, are the two other classifications of misused prescription drugs. Depressants are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders. When taken for long periods of time, these drugs are addicting and can cause physical withdrawal symptoms. Stimulants are taken to help lose weight, treat sleeping disorders, and help children with ADD and ADHD. Many college students abuse this drug to help them focus for long periods of time while studying. Although these class of drugs are not nearly as fatal as opiates, causing “14,800 deaths in 2008,which is more than cocaine and heroin combined (Ardnt and Barnes 272), it is believed that they are far over prescribed and susceptible to abuse due to their addictiveness. One finger of blame for the prescription drug abuse problem is pointed at the prescribing physicians. In the early 2000’s, “there was a heightened focus on the under-treatment of pain. Healthcare providers were

Lake Effect essayist Nilesh Patel looks at the death of a well-known hockey player two years ago as evidence that change is needed inside and outside of sports:

I wish I had known about Derek Boogaard before he died.

The 28-year old Canadian was a fan favorite in the National Hockey League when he lost his battle to addictive prescription painkillers two years ago.

Sadly, Boogaard’s story isn’t unique. Millions of Americans – from professional athletes like Boogaard to the car pool mom across the street – are fighting for their lives and may not even realize it.

Prescription opioid abuse is the fastest growing drug addiction in the country today. In 2010, there were enough painkiller prescriptions written to medicate every American around the clock for a month.

Think about that. We could medicate every American 24/7 with painkillers. And the numbers are growing. Prescription-related drug deaths are up more than 400 percent in the last 11 years. ER prescription drug-related cases total about half a million annually.

Patients want quick solutions to their medical problems. As a physician, I am expected to maintain a high level of patient satisfaction. Unfortunately, “patient satisfaction” is sometimes an oxymoron as it relates to a slow-but-steady treatment regimen, which is often the best approach.

In the world of instant online surveys and social media postings, anything less than immediate gratification may cause vocal (and viral) patient dissatisfaction. This contributes significantly to the over-prescription problem.

Change should start with my brother and sister physicians. We must guard against an over-reliance on prescription painkillers as a default in treating pain. We must find the root causes of pain problems and treat them with the best possible options, even if it takes longer to see results.

Lawmakers can also help. Under HIPAA, the patient privacy act, I am not allowed to tell anyone if I suspect a patient is abusing painkillers, or “doctor shopping” to inappropriately obtain even more drugs. Patient privacy must be sacrosanct, but don’t silence me when the next Derek Boogaard walks into my office. A law which “protects” a person at risk protects no one. Give doctors a chance to make a difference in our communities.

Finally, to my patients, you have a role in this as well. A potentially addictive drug is not a panacea. At best, it’s a stop-gap measure. You must push yourselves to lose the excess weight. To stop smoking. And to walk regularly. Even a small amount of exercise can minimize pain.

Derek Boogaard’s family is suing the NHL for negligence in their son’s death. If there is an upside to his loss, it is that the suit could force a long overdue paradigm shift in how powerful painkillers are prescribed.

The loss of any child, especially one so talented, is tragic. But there is a small window of hope for the Boogaard family their loss will be a bellwether event for the rest of us.

Let Derek Boogaard’s fatal overdose from prescription painkillers be the last. If that can happen – and this I believe with my heart – he will not have died in vain.

Dr. Nilesh Patel is a partner with Advanced Pain Management clinics, and practices in Milwaukee in Green Bay.

Essayist Dr. Nilesh Patel offers solutions to the growing opiod abuse problem.


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