Prescription Drug Abuse. Katherine E. Schmidt. IHEC Intern - Fall 2010

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1 Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the Illinois Higher Education Center, Eastern Illinois University, and The Department of Human Services. Prescription Drug Abuse Katherine E. Schmidt IHEC Intern - Fall 2010 Research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration office has recently presented data gathered by a recent study on the growing issue of prescription drug abuse. The ten-year study showed a 400% increase of prescription drug abuse in selfreported cases ages 12 and older between This increase raised prescription drugs to the second most prevalent type of drug used behind marijuana (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2010). Prescription drug abuse is considered when a person takes prescription drugs without a prescription or more often than has been prescribed. This is also known as non-medical prescription use (National Institute on Health [NIH] 2005). It is believed the broad availability of these types of prescription drugs has lead to the increase in abuse. Anyone who has a prescription can give or sell to others, while those who do not can easily steal or buy from friends or family members. An indicated 53% of those who have abused prescription drugs got the medication from a friend or relative for free while 10% bought them from a friend or relative and 5% stole them (SAMHSA, 2010). The concern lies in the knowledge that prescription drugs are legal, but there is no way of tracking who is taking them besides who picks up the medication at the pharmacy. The non-medical use of these drugs, of course, not only leads to brief periods of pleasure, but can also lead to unwanted harmful long term effects. 1 I l l i n o i s H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n C e n t e r E a s t e r n I l l i n o i s U n i v e r s i t y

2 The abuse of prescription drugs can have many short and long term effects which is why the need for awareness and education is so important. Many effects include dependence and addiction, depression of the respiratory system, seizures, heart complications, depression, and others. The purposeful nature of the medication can lead to specific short and long term effects (SAMHSA, 2008). There are three main types of prescription drugs which are most commonly abused. They are opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants. Opioids are usually prescribed for the use of pain relief and are also known as prescribed narcotics. Common pain relievers abused include codeine, diphenoxylate, morphine, oxycodone, and Percocet. Opioids can give the feeling of euphoria which causes the body to interpret the feeling it gives as pleasurable. This leads to non medical use of the drug which can be addictive and cause dependence (NIH, 2005). Central nervous system depressants are typically prescribed to patients with anxiety or sleep disorders. They act as a sedative or tranquilizer which allows the normal brain function to slow down causing a drowsy or sleepy effect (NIH, 2010). Stimulants were previously prescribed for a variety of conditions including asthma and obesity but the increase of awareness in the addictive nature caused a significant decrease in prescribing the drugs in the early 1980 s. Today, stimulants are typically prescribed for narcolepsy, ADHD, and in rare instances, depression. Stimulants increase alertness and attention which also means the heart rate and blood pressure. This increases dopamine in the brain which causes a sense of euphoria. 2 I l l i n o i s H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n C e n t e r E a s t e r n I l l i n o i s U n i v e r s i t y

3 One of the more commonly abused stimulants is Adderall which is prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. The increase in awareness of mental health disorders in teenagers has contributed to the increase use of this drug (NIH, 2010). With the increase in prescriptions of Adderall to younger teens, the addiction and abuse rates for the year old demographic have increase as well. In 2008, a reported 2% of year olds had used stimulants non-medically in the past year. Students who used these prescriptions non-medically were at higher risk to use other illicit drugs, have more major depressive episodes, and participate in delinquent behavior (SAMHSA, 2008). While rates of use in the year old demographic are growing, the highest rated age group for prescription drug abuse is the year old demographic. In 2008, 5.9% of self reported respondents in this age category stated they used prescription drugs for non medical reasons (Anastopoulos, et al., 2009). With the increase of awareness of this growing trend at all ages, both state governments and the United States government are proposing and passing laws to hinder the selling and abuse of prescription drugs. The United States House and Senate are currently reviewing The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act which will help support and encourage those who wish to continue or begin programs which will allow people to voluntary drop off unused or expired prescription drugs (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2010). As of July 2010, thirty-three states had operational Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs which are designed to encourage the legitimate dispersal and use of prescription drugs while 3 I l l i n o i s H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n C e n t e r E a s t e r n I l l i n o i s U n i v e r s i t y

4 deterring abuse. They also provide educational programming and initiatives to make more Americans aware of the issue (DEA, 2010). 4 I l l i n o i s H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n C e n t e r E a s t e r n I l l i n o i s U n i v e r s i t y

5 References Anastopoulos, A.D., Costello, E.J., Hoyle, R.H., McCabe, S.E., Rabiner, D.L. & Swartzwelder, H.S. (2009). The misuse and diversion of prescribed ADHD medications by college students. Journal of Attention Disorders. 13(2) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2008). The NSDUH report: Nonmedical stimulant use, other drug use, delinquent behaviors, and depression among adolescents. Rockville, MD. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2010). The TEDS report: Substance abuse treatment admissions involving abuse of pain relievers: 1998 and Rockville, MD. U.S Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Prescription drug abuse. Retrieved from: U.S Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2005). Prescription drugs: Abuse and addiction. (NIH Publication No ). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control. (2010). Q&A: State prescription drug monitoring programs. Retrieved from 5 I l l i n o i s H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n C e n t e r E a s t e r n I l l i n o i s U n i v e r s i t y

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