Going through a disease like cancer can involve excruciating pain, and doctors will often prescribe painkillers to help victims of the disease to manage it. Over the years, powerful painkillers based on the opioid family of chemicals have been developed, and doctors often prescribe this type of drug to cancer patients.
The problem with opioid drugs, however, is that they are incredibly addictive. They come from the same family of drugs as morphine, opium and heroin. They can give relief from pain, but users often end up abusing the drugs as well. Patients that are prescribed the drugs often find that they have become tolerant to their prescribed doses, so they try to start taking more of the drugs than is safe.
In other cases, people get a hold of the drugs even when they have never been patients and never had the drugs prescribed to them. These pills can simply be swallowed, but they often will take effect slowly because that is how they are designed. In order to get a faster rush from the pills, users can also crush up the pills and snort them or dissolve them in water and try to inject them. These create a bigger, more intense rush and also get the person addicted faster.
An Increase in Non-cancer Related Prescriptions
Studies from the Daily Science have shown that the number of patients going to doctors with symptoms of pain have stayed at a relatively level proportion over the past decade. Even while the proportionate number of these visits has not gone up, the prescription patterns have changed dramatically. Doctors today are prescribing many more opioid-based painkillers than non-opioid based drugs. Even when these drugs were originally meant for cancer-related pain, doctors are also now prescribing them for a variety of other conditions with other causes.
If you have a lot of back pain, doctors from ten or twenty years ago might have had a variety of different remedies to advise you with. There is a much greater chance today, however, that doctors will give you powerful painkillers like Oxycontin or Vicodin to deal with it. Even dentists will give out prescriptions for these powerful drugs to deal with the pain of dental work.
The result of this change in prescription patters is that there are a lot more people out there with access to powerful drugs. Painkiller abuse is the fastest growing category of abuse in many states, and it doesn’t help that doctors are actually the source of many of the pills that Americans are abusing.
Ways to Stem the Tide
One of the best ways to control or stop the expansion of any category of drug use is to look at where those drugs are coming from. With many categories of drug use, that can be incredibly difficult to do, but authorities have had success at limiting the expansion of some drugs like meth. Law enforcement has to do a lot of street-level work to shut down the labs that produce these powerful and dangerous drugs, but they are making great strides in doing so.
The advantage we have in dealing with prescription drug abuse is that the main source of the drugs (doctors and pharmacies) are members of a highly regulated and controlled industry that can easily have laws and reforms applied to it. Recognizing that the heightened levels of prescription drug abuse in this country largely have their beginnings in the prescription patterns of doctors, we can start to make the needed reforms in the offices of these doctors to see real change in our country.