Prescription Drug Abuse – “The Doctor Gave It To Me” Excuse and Other Rationalized Conversations

According to an article written for DATIA Focus magazine by Dr. Ernest Lykissa, PhD, ExperTox’s Scientific Laboratory Director and Forensic Toxicologist, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) says nearly 7 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, and reports opiod painkillers now cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.  You might even be surprised at some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs routinely found in people’s medicine cabinets:

  • Opiods (pain relievers)
    • OxyContin
    • Percodan/Percocet
    • Darvon
    • Vicodin
    • Demerol
    • Codeine
  • CNS Depressants (tranquilizers and sedatives)
    • Valium
    • Xanax
  • Stimulants
    • Adderall
    • Ritalin

 These drugs are often prescribed to relieve pain; reduce anxiety and panic attacks; allow improved sleep; and manage attention deficit disorder.  In a nutshell, they provide relief.  Unfortunately, some people become addicted to the benefits of these drugs.  They may have trouble getting off the prescription over time or think “more is better”, increasing their dosage without medical supervision.  Because a doctor prescribed the initial medication, a sense of justification sets in.

 Prescription drugs can be abused through what is referred to as “doctor shopping”.  This is when a person visits multiple doctors for the same problem without alerting them to their prior care, then takes the prescriptions to different pharmacies.  Many pain management physicians are now performing drug tests before issuing prescriptions in an effort to stop this trend.  Another way individuals abuse prescription drugs is by giving or taking another person’s prescription.  They either “borrow” it out of their family’s or friend’s medicine cabinet, or it is freely given without one knowing the extent of the problem.

 Teen drug abuse of prescription medications is a rising concern.  Prescription drugs are taken from parents’ medicine cabinets, only to be sold for extra cash on the streets.  Though your teen may not be directly affected by drug use, they may unknowingly be taking a pill at a time out of your prescription bottles to make a few extra bucks, while feeding the addiction of others.  If a medicine cabinet is not secured, it is also easy for a young adult to “sneak” pills from an adult’s prescribed medications when they are having a bad day or stressed.  One pill at a time may lead to more addictive behavior.  Do you think this can’t happen to you or your children?  Look at the facts – 15.4% of 12th graders used prescription drugs for nonmedical use according to Monitoring The Future’s 2008 report.

 Finally, drug testing for pre-employment, random, for cause and/or post-accident purposes has become normal protocol with many employers.  Most choose 5 or 10 panel standard drug tests.   What many don’t realize is that some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs will not be screened for in these standard panels, most specifically synthetic opiates such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).  With the rise in prescription drug abuse, it makes risk, safety and financial sense to ask for additional testing to cover the most commonly abused prescription drugs when conducting employment-based drug testing.

 It is easy for people to justify in their minds that if they have a prescription, they are not a “substance abuser”.  They easily rationalize that if the doctor said it is okay through his or her prescription, then they are not subject to the stereotype of “street drug” users.

 Have you faced a prescription drug abuse situation with a friend, family member or coworker?  Share your story here (without using real names, business names or places please).

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