Written By: Fiona Stockard
The Deadly Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
The number of overdoses from prescription drug abuse has tripled since 1990[i]. In fact, prescription drug abuse statistics have caused many states to call the rise of prescription opioid abuse an epidemic. We have a prescription drug epidemic on our hands.
That alone is scary. What’s scarier is when you consider that pain pills and heroin are almost identical. They’re both powerful drugs that produce euphoria and feelings of relaxation. Prescription painkillers can be snorted, injected, or smoked. So can heroin.
So, when prescription painkillers become too expensive, people switch to heroin. In fact, the number of individuals who report using heroin within the last month has almost doubled since 2007 [ii].
Prescription Drug Abuse Facts and Statistics
Prescription opioid abuse costs not only those in active addiction, but their families and society at large. As pain pills become more and more popular, the cost to society rises higher and higher.
As of 2012, forty-six states monitored prescription opioids. This discourages doctor shopping, or going to multiple doctors for prescriptions. However, it isn’t cheap! [iii]
In 2004, the number of ER visits for opioids other than heroin was 299,498. By 2011, this number jumped to 885,348. That an astronomical rise!
From 2001 to 2012, the sale of opioids has increased 110%[iv]. According to research, opioids have become over an 8 billion dollar industry.
Prescription Drug Abuse Often Leads to Hospitals, Jails & Death
The consequences of opioid addiction vary depending on the individual. Usually though, the consequences are severe.
The trend in today’s society is to view addiction a moral failing and a personal choice. This simply isn’t true. There are countless studies and reports which show addiction is a disease. These studies also show how opioids work on the brain.
Opioids target the pleasure centers in the brain. In doing so, the potential consequences of prescription drug abuse fall by the wayside. To put it another way, an addict doesn’t care if they’re arrested, as long as they’re high.
How Our Society Views Addiction
Keeping the above statistics in mind, let’s reconsider how society treats and views addiction.
In the field of addiction medicine, it’s been shown that addiction treatment centers work better than punitive legal measures. Addiction treatment centers have also been shown to be more effective than maintenance therapies, like methadone and Suboxone.
Those who seek treatment have a lower chance of relapse than those who don’t. This is largely due to the information and support offered by rehabs. You can find gender-specific addiction treatment centers that teach addicts a new way of life.
Addiction affects people on multiple levels and, as such, treatment should offer a variety of options. Still, health insurance companies deny treatment to those who desperately need it. Taking it one step further, those without insurance are often unable to enter treatment at all! Luckily, the Affordable Care Act includes substance abuse disorders as one of the ten elements of “Essential Health Benefits” [v].
The types of treatment covered are still being determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. It is my hope that in-patient drug abuse treatment will be among them.