What is the prescription drug epidemic?
The abuse of prescription drugs across the United States has been increasing for years and has caused many problems in communities across the country. This epidemic has caused many deaths from overdose because of the possible addictive ingredients. According to the Minnesota’s Department of Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Unit, a review of state death records revealed that opioid painkillers claimed more lives than homicides each year. Because of the addictive elements in the drugs, some people are more likely to become addicted and overdose by accident or on purpose. Misusing prescription is starting to become a more prominent problem compared to other drugs because they are easily accessible. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12.5 million people misused prescription drugs in the last year. Although this is nation wide problem targeting many different types of people, some are more noteworthy than others.
Who is abusing the prescription drugs?
Prescription drugs can affect all different kinds of people but they most likely know someone that uses these prescription drugs for medical reasons. A lot of them, however, are teens. According to RxSafteyMatters, “More than 1,600 teens begin abusing prescription drugs each day.” Teenagers have started using prescription drugs more than others because they are easily accessible to grab out of their parents or grandparents medicine cabinet. Although teens have started to use prescription drugs more, other people are still a big factor in the overdose rate. From DrugFreeWorld.org, a personal story from Ben explains his experience with drugs. “It started with the weed, then the pills (Ecstasy) and acid, making cocktails of all sorts of drugs, even overdosing to make the rushes last longer. I had a bad trip one night . . . I prayed and cried for this feeling to go away, I had voices in my head, had the shakes and couldn’t leave home for six months. I thought everyone was watching me. I couldn’t walk in public places. Man! I couldn’t even drive”. For many teens it seems like this would never happen to them. However, with the easy accessibility of prescription drugs, it could happen to anyone. With people starting drug use younger and younger the death toll will only continue to rise.
why is this such a big problem?
The prescription drug overdose rate has been increasing for years and will only continue to grow through the next few years. Overdose is now starting to become one of the leading causes of death in some areas of the United States. From the CDC, in 2008 for the first time, prescription drug overdose became the highest non-medical related cause of death. This was now nine years ago, so the difference between the overdose and the other causes of death has only become greater. According to the CDC, more people died from overdose than from car accidents and gun violence in 2014. Prescription drugs are considered a gateway into other bigger drugs but they are now becoming their own category of drugs.
How can this affect future drug usage?
As prescription drugs are a gateway drug, they can led to other harder drugs such as heroin or meth. Once someone uses a drug for a prolong period of time, they can develop a tolerance causing them to need to take stronger drugs to feel the same kind of high. “According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens who abuse prescription drugs are twice as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use marijuana, and twelve to twenty times more likely to use illegal street drugs such as heroin, Ecstasy and cocaine than teens who do not abuse prescription drugs”. People, especially young adults, have a higher chance of using more dangerous drugs if they have used prescription. A drug that is starting to become more pronounced on the streets is heroin. About 580 people start using heroin everyday and ⅘ people use prescription drugs before they use heroin, according to the acting Chief of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg. With so much evidence of an epidemic, the government has seemed to taken a small amount of initiative in combating the crisis.
what is the government doing to solve the problem?
The government and related agencies have created different communal programs, laws, and restrictions to help decrease the amount of prescription drug abuse. Minnesota, for example, has created bills that help to bring a community together against a crisis like the prescription drugs. From AddictionNow.com, “Minnesota sponsored a bill that encouraged states and local communities to join the fight against opioid addiction. The bill included efforts such as requiring states to monitor and report opioid prescriptions, expanding education for teens and their parents, and allowing law enforcement agencies and first responders greater access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone”. With bills such as this in place, the amount of overdose of prescription drugs will hopefully decrease; mostly among young adults. On a wider scale, the Drug Enforcement Agency has created programs for the whole country to increase the amount of education that is being put on the dangers of prescription. The DEA chief, Chuck Rosenberg states, ”We have a partnership now with discovery education. We have created a stem based curriculum that we can drop into any middle school or high school in America”. With these in place, the percent of teenagers abusing prescription drugs should decrease with the future generations.
how will this affect future generations?
Hopefully with many efforts toward tackling the epidemic, the percent of people using and abusing prescription drug will decrease. One major effect of the crisis is more children are being put up for adoption and later put into foster homes. From the Richmond Register, “Nationally, there was a 4 percent increase in the number of children in foster care between 2012 and 2014”. Parents that have an addiction to any kind of drugs has a lesser chance of being the kind of parent that a child needs, causing them to lose their child to the foster system. If these prescription drugs become more accessible to more people, the death rate from overdose will grow. “A 2013 SAMHSA study shows that emergency department visits for drug misuse or abuse by youth aged 12 to 17 on a typical day include 74 for prescription or nonprescription pain relievers”. With the rise in abuse among teenagers, the death rate is increasing as well as the number of people being admitted to hospitals and rehab centers. With the combined forces of the government programs, laws and the community coming together, the future should look bright for the next generations.