Prescription Drug Abuse: A Growing Problem

It is easy to assume that a drug problem is only possible if a person were to take illegal drugs and become addicted. The problem with this assumption is it ignores the growing problem of abuse in terms of prescription drugs.

The Reading Eagle recently posted a piece that highlights the ease in which “normal” individuals become addicted to drugs. For Brandi B., an illegal drug never entered her system. It was a prescription for Dilaudid to ease the pain of ulcerative colitis that led to an addiction that eventually ruined her life.

The access to prescription drugs can start with a legitimate prescription, but can continue through numerous means. Online pharmacies, doctor shopping and prescription fraud all contribute to a growing problem.

For some addicts, prescription drugs have passed illegal narcotics as the drug of choice. According to a study by the American College of Surgeons, the No. 1 drug prescribed to postsurgery patients is painkillers.

On February 12, 2001, Ryan Haight died from an overdose of a narcotic medication that he ordered online without ever having seen a doctor. The resident of San Diego was 17 when he bought the drugs and 18 when he overdosed.

Congress passed the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act last year. This act, which is scheduled to take effect January 15, requires an in-person visit with a physician. It also requires that online pharmacies be licensed by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Industry research shows that more than seven million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. This number is more than the number who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and inhalants combined. More than 40 percent of teens and almost the same number of parents believe abusing prescription painkillers is safer than street drugs.

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