Prescription drug addiction has risen exponentially in the US the past 20 years. Prescription drugs of abuse are found in different categories, opioid pain medication, anti-anxiety (benzodiazepine) medication, sleep medication and stimulant ADD/ADHD medication are the most commonly abused. In our country today there is a growing distribution system of unsuspecting drug suppliers. Parents, grandparents and other family members are beginning to supply their addicted or potentially addicted loved ones without even knowing it. According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), in 2010 of 12th graders who abused prescription drugs 77.9% reported to have either taken them or were given them from family or friends. Adults over the age of 65 comprise only 13% of the population but thy account for more than one-third of the total outpatient spending on prescription pain medications (NIDA). I regularly do interventions for those addicted to pain medications or benzodiazepines like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax or Ativan. The majority of them say that at some point they procured these drugs from the medicine cabinets in the homes of their parents or other family members. This is but a small list of medications that are becoming the new gateway drugs for addiction. According to NIDA, in 2007 the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioid pain medication outnumbered deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. In fact, according to the same report, prescription and over the counter medications are the most commonly abused drugs behind marijuana. The reality is, youth who abuse prescription medications are more likely to abuse other hard drugs as well.
The unfortunate lie that many believe is that these drugs are safe because they can be prescribed by a doctor. The truth is that most people who are not addicted these drugs are safe if taken as prescribed. In the hands of an addict, however, these drugs can be lethal. Addicts rarely take these substances in the quantity or manner prescribed. For instance Oxycodone, a central nervous system depressant, is most commonly prescribed as an oral tablet. Its pain relieving qualities are designed to be digested slowly and relieve pain over time by blocking pain receptors in the brain. Addicts will oven crush these prescription medications and snort them or even inject them. This bypasses the slow acting nature of the medication and releases the full dose at a single time. This could result in an overdose which shuts down the cardiovascular system and is frequently fatal. Benzodiazepine medication designed to treat anxiety has a similar depressing effect on the central nervous system. Taken in large quantities or combined with the effects of alcohol and the effects can be fatal.