Prescription drug abuse kills: action in 4 areas to lower abuse
There has been growing awareness of the power of prescription medications to kill. The problem is so serious it should be ranked alongside illicit drug abuse and alcohol abuse as primary critical health hazards in the United States and elsewhere across the world. High profile deaths from prescription drugs, such as that of Michael Jackson, helps to highlight how serious this problem is. Many other people are also dead and dying from prescription drugs. The time to act on this problem is now.
Prescription drug abuse has been labelled as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. There has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs such as cocaine, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). However, nearly one-third of people who are aged 12 and over who have used drugs for the first time in 2009 started by using a prescription drug non-medically.
It is often believed by prescription drug abusers that these substances are safer than illicit drugs because after all they are prescribed by healthcare professionals and dispensed by pharmacists. This appears to be a critical problem of misperception in teens. Teens are responsible for much prescription drug abuse, reports EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD. Addressing the critical problem of the prescription drug abuse epidemic is a top priority for public health.
The 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan has expanded upon the Obama Administration's National Drug Control Strategy. This initiative now includes action in four major areas to lower prescription drug abuse, including:
1: Education. In order to effectively tackle the problem of prescription drug abuse it is essential to educate parents, youth, and patients about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Prescribers should be required to receive education dealing with the appropriate and safe use, and proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
2: Monitoring. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) should be implemented in every state to lower “doctor shopping” and diversion. PDMPs should be enhanced to make certain they can share data across states and are used by healthcare providers.
3: Proper Medication Disposal. Convenient and environmentally responsible prescription drug disposal programs should be developed to help lower the supply of unused prescription drugs in the home.
4: Enforcement. Law enforcement needs the tools necessary to eliminate improper prescribing practices and to put a stop to pill mills.
Prescription drug abuse and doctors who prescribe them have been on the rise, according to EmaxHealth reporter Tyler Woods, Ph.D.
It has been observed that prescription drugs are actually the second-most abused category of drugs after marijuana. Furthermore, the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that greater than 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while about 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or over the Internet. Also, opiate overdoses, which was once almost always due to heroin use, are now increasingly surfacing as being due to abuse of prescription painkillers. In the U.S. military alone, illicit drug use increased from 5% to 12% among active duty service members between 2005 to 2008. This was primarily due to the non-medical use of prescription drugs.
In recent years the number of prescriptions filled for opioid pain relievers, which are some of the most powerful medications available, has increased dramatically. There was a 402 percent increase in the milligram-per-person use of prescription opioids in the U.S. from 1997 to 2007. Furthermore, in 2000 retail pharmacies dispensed 174 million prescriptions for opioids.
Prescription medications are still killing, writes the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC).
A wave of cautionary drug stories this year was lead by GlaxoSmithKline’s penalty. In the largest pharmaceutical settlement to date, in July 2012 pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pleaded guilty to a three-part criminal indictment. The firm agreed to pay $3 billion in fines and civil penalties, which is the largest pharmaceutical settlement to date. The crime was promoting its drugs for unapproved uses while also failing to report drug-related health hazards.
U.S. Justice Department prosecutors said GSK endorsed Paxil for use by patients under 18 years old, even though there was lack of approval. The firm was also charged with withholding research which was related to a possible increase in suicide risk when taken by adolescents. GSK was also charged with failing to disclose health hazards which are associated with the diabetes drug Avandia. And doctors are said to have been given illegal kickbacks by GSK.
Abbott Laboratories settled for $1.6 billion over a lawsuit involving its anti-seizure drug Depakote in 2012. Abbott was charged with illegally marketing the drug for schizophrenia and agitated dementia, even though it was approved only for treatment of seizure disorders, or mania which is associated with bipolar disorder and migraines. Although doctors may prescribe drugs for any purpose, pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from promoting drugs for conditions which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $181 million in order resolve claims made by 35 states and the District of Columbia that the firm had defrauded state Medicaid agencies by promoting the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega for unapproved uses. This was the largest multi-state health care fraud settlement ever.
The shooting massacres in 2012 in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut have sparked renewed interest in the association between violence and prescription psychiatric drugs in teens and young adults. This disturbing pattern was evidenced in the 25-year list of school shootings which was compiled by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR). The CCHR has long been blasting the psychiatrists for using dangerous drugs which can set off suicidal and homicidal ideation and intent, along with many other painful and sometimes lethal side effects.
Older patients are also put at risk by prescription drugs. A Vanderbilt University study has found that about 50 percent of all heart patients make medication errors. Two percent of these medication errors are life threatening. It has been found that one in five medications which are prescribed to people older than 65 are either wrongly prescribed or prescribed at the wrong dosage. This study also uncovered several drugs that are routinely prescribed for seniors, despite knowledge of their being inappropriate for that age group. These drugs include:
1: The pain reliever propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
2: The antidepressant amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
3:The blood pressure pill doxazosin (Cardura)
4: The antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Kristaps Paddock, ND, has commented in regard to the position of naturopaths on the prescription drug abuse problem, "The issue is not that drugs don't work, nor that as a naturopathic physician I'm 'opposed' to drugs, but rather that when the lives and health of patients is on the line, we should have access to accurate, unbiased information, be it about pharmaceutical drugs, herbs, supplements or other treatments." Dr. Paddock's insightful comment is right on target.
It has been my impression that the abuse of both illicit and prescribed drugs has been epidemic for decades, if not longer. These drugs have flooded the market to such a degree it appears organized crime must have infiltrated the entire American society, including the high school and university campuses. It also appears a disregard for the seriousness of this problem by many medical doctors highlights a catastrophic lack of commitment to dealing with these problems by medical educators and an arrogant desire to place quick profits ahead of patients lives by too many medical doctors.
It's been sad to witness that the practice of good general health care and good mental health care is far too often equated with how many prescription drugs are written. If a cup of green tea and exercise works better than pills, pills and more pills for some conditions such as weakness of an unclear etiology, than the pills simply should not be prescribed even if they are cleared by the FDA for such uses. Making up diagnoses to legitimize the prescribing of drugs which are often dangerous, as psychiatrists always do, can be lethal.