The Great Plague of the 21st Century:  Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a plague as “a disastrous evil or affliction; an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality.”  If we look at the statistics and consequences of prescription drug addiction in the United States today, it seems that the term plague is a fitting description of what is happening.

Of course, our nation is also plagued by illicit drug problems, and the combined numbers of addictions, overdoses, and deaths from these legal and illegal substances are frightening.

Prescription Drug Addiction by the Numbers

Humans are notorious for wanting an easy fix for their discomforts or illnesses. That’s why the prescription opioid industry is one of the most lucrative businesses in our nation today.  In fact, in 2017, the opioid prescribing rate was 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people, or more than 255 million prescriptions, according to the CDC.

To get an idea of the enormity of the drug problem today, let’s take a look at some of the most frequently abused substances.

Painkillers and Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction caused more than 200,000 overdose deaths in the US from 1999 to 2016. Also, the number of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids was five times higher in 2016, than in 1999.  If the rate of increase continues at that pace, the number of deaths in the next ten years will be unimaginable.

Some of the most frequently prescribed opioid painkillers include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Vicodin
  • Lortab
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol

It’s important to note that more than 40% of all opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, according to the CDC.  They estimate that more than 46 people die each day from opioid-related overdoses.

Psychiatric Drugs

The use of mental health drugs is out of control.  This classification includes antidepressants, ADHD meds, and anti-anxiety meds. More than one in five adults are on at least one psychiatric medication.  Also, more than 5.4 million children are diagnosed as having ADHD and are currently on medications for the condition.

Some of the well-known drugs in this group are:

  • Antidepressants:  Celexa, Cymbalta, Elavil, Prozac, and more
  • Antipsychotics:  Abilify, Haldol, Risperdal, Zyprexa, and more
  • Mood stabilizers:  Depakote, Lithium, Tegretol, and more
  • Sleeping pills, Tranquilizers, and Anti-anxiety drugs:  Ambien, Ativan, Circadin, Diazepam, Librium, Lyrica, Nytol, Xanax, and more
  • Stimulants:  Adderall, Ritalin, Amphetamine, Desoxyn

One of the most distressing facts about psychiatric drugs has to do with the effects of antidepressants on children.  Approximately three percent of children today are on antidepressant medications that are known to increase the risk of suicide.

What is Being Done to Reduce the Numbers?

The Centers for Disease Control is working with healthcare providers to address the over-prescribing of opioid painkillers.  In 2016, the CDC published the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain as a tool for improving prescribing practices and ensure that patients receive alternative methods for pain management.

Nationwide, individuals and groups are working together to combat the prescription drug addiction problems we face today.

Some of the things they are doing include:

  • Community and school-based prevention programs to help all school-aged children and adolescents resist social pressures, manage stress, and strengthen self-esteem.
  • Family-based prevention programs that help parents learn more effective communication skills, appropriate disciplinary measures, and rule enforcement.
  • National programs such as Red Ribbon Week, National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA); the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT), and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) to name a few.  More information about these and other programs can be found here.

In addition to these organizations, there are other groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education); NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education), and hundreds more.

Learn More About Prescription Drug Addiction and Treatment

Almost everyone in the United States knows someone who has a drug problem.  Shocking as it may seem, it is the reality we face today. The number of lives destroyed or radically changed by addiction rises with each passing day.

If you know someone who needs help for prescription drug addiction or illicit drug abuse, please contact Awakenings today. We can help your friend or loved one get the help he or she needs.

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