Posts Tagged 'prescription drug abuse'

Trends Increase in Women 50 and Older for Drug-Related Suicide Attempts

Evidence of the troubling increase in prescription drug abuse has reached hospital emergency rooms, which report increasing medication-related suicide attempts among women 50 and older.

From 2005 to 2009, suicide attempts in which drugs played some role rose from 11,235 to 16,757 among women ages 50 and up, a federal survey found. The increase, driven in part by the last of the Baby Boomers entering their sixth decade, provides a new example of the toll wrought by the nation’s prescription painkiller epidemic. In 2009, 16 million Americans age 12 and up had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant or sedative for non-medical reasons in the previous year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The trends involving women and suicide appeared in a Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report dated May 12, 2011, but released Thursday to coincide with a meeting of the public-private Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The report, prepared by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, wasn’t limited to suicide attempts involving deliberate overdoses; its authors counted any suicide attempt in which drugs were involved, such as a woman slashing her wrists while smoking marijuana.

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Among women of all ages, emergency hospital visits for attempted suicide involving alcohol or illicit drug use remained “relatively stable” from 2005 to 2009, but increased for particular drugs. Drilling deeper into the report reveals that:

 ER visits for suicide attempts associated with women taking drugs intended to counter anxiety and insomnia rose 56 percent, from 32,426 to 50,548. Hospital visits for attempted suicides involving a class of anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines rose 67 percent. Those involving alprazolam (Xanax) went up 74 percent. Hospital visits for suicide attempts in which the insomnia drug zolpidem (Ambien) played a role rose 158 percent, from 2,177 visits to 8,190 visits, for all women, but only were statistically significant among women 35 to 49.

 ER visits for women’s suicide attempts associated with pain relievers grew more than 30 percent, from 36,563 to 47,838. Suicide attempts involving narcotic pain relievers remained relatively stable overall, but climbed 67 percent among women who took hydrocodone (Vicodin), from 4,613 to 7,715. They soared 210 percent for suicide attempts involving oxycodone (Oxycontin), from 1,895 to 5,875. A closer analysis found statistically significant increases in ER visits for attempted suicide involving oxycodone for women 21 to 34, and attempted suicide involving hydrocodone for women 35 to 49. Those age ranges span the years during which women typically marry, have children, build careers and reach menopause, all of which can contribute to stress.

Adult addiction specialist Dr. Elizabeth F. Howell, a past president of theAmerican Society of Addiction Medicine and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, said the report findings reflected higher overall rates of prescription abuse and addiction. They weren’t surprising, she said, because as doctors spend less time with their patients, they rely more on pharmaceutical treatments for physical and psychological problems.

“When you go to the physician, there’s not as much time to talk to the doctor. If I’m not sleeping very well, the doctor is more likely to give me a prescription, rather than talk to me for 5 minutes about sleep hygiene,” she said. “There are not as many psychiatrists as we need. Even suicidal patients have trouble getting to see a psychiatrist.”

Primary Care Doctors Prescribing Meds for Problems Psychiatrists Once Handled

As a result, “many more primary care professionals are put in the position of prescribing for anxiety and depression,” even when their patients have health insurance and the means to see a specialist. Patients initially prescribed powerful pain medications for sports injuries or after surgery may discover those drugs help them relax or sleep better and begin “self-medicating their psychiatric symptoms and not just the physical pain,” Howell said.

Howell said she suspects that women in their 50s, who tend to suffer aged-related aches and pains and have problems stemming from hormonal changes, are complaining to their doctors about “things that may not sound totally like depression or anxiety.” She said they leave with prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers or sleeping pills, when they might benefit more from therapy, antidepressants or in some cases, hormonal therapy.

With so many primary care doctors and specialists handing out so many powerful pills, it’s little wonder that patients end up with more medications than they need in their medicine cabinets. “If you paid for it, you tend to hang onto it,” Howell said. “And then if you become depressed or otherwise impulsively suicidal, you look at your medicine cabinet. Overdose is a very common way to try to attempt suicide.”

Although statistics show men more likely to kill themselves than women, women are more frequently treated for attempted suicide, according to 2011 figures compiled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, there were more than 215,000 ER visits by women trying to hurt themselves and women accounted for 3 out of 5 ER visits for drug-related suicide attempts.

The DAWN report said hospital emergency rooms are key places to identify at-risk women and refer them for “appropriate mental health and social services” that address underlying anxiety, depression and domestic abuse, before they can succeed in ending their lives. But it said much of that intervention could also take place by having doctors “monitor the frequency of requested refills, assess medical need, and refer to mental health services when indicated.”

“The steep rise in abuse of narcotic pain relievers by women is extremely dangerous and we are now seeing the result of this public health crisis in our emergency rooms,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, an attorney and former state mental health director. “Emergency rooms should not be the front line in our efforts to intervene.”

Given that older women represent one of the fast-growing populations, and that pain and sleep disorders increasingly are treated with prescription drugs, report concluded by saying that “expanded research on women’s aging issues and the potential use of these drugs as a method of, or influence on, suicide attempts is critical.”

Article By JANE E. ALLEN, ABC News Medical Unit

America’s deadliest and fastest-growing drug problem

As we have talked about before, prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic. Whether you are experiencing physical or emotional difficulty, there are pills for everything and more and more people are abusing them. Recently the feds announced new initiatives to address what has been called “America’s deadliest and fastest-growing drug problem.”

According to the CDC, US emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines more than doubled from 2004 to 2008, and most unintentional poisonings in the US are due to drugs, both prescribed and illegal.

This week, the White House released their Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, targeting four areas of needed improvement: education, monitoring, proper medication disposal, and enforcing elimination of improper prescribing and drug-seeking behavior.

The FDA also took initiative with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) targeting doctors and patients.

Truly the reoccurring theme with this epidemic is education with the doctors and patients. So get educated about any prescription written for you or a loved one.

Click here for the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.  

Top Signs that Point to Prescription Drug Abuse

If you are worried about a friend or loved one abusing prescription drugs, you aren’t alone. The use and abuse of prescription drugs has amplified in the last 20 years.

According to the Center for Disease Control, narcotic prescription use rose 1,000 percent in the U.S. between 1990 and 2009. As well, nationally we experienced a 500 percent increase in the number of prescription narcotic-related deaths.

Psychiatrist and author, Stephen Seager, wrote an article on the dangers of abusing prescription health meds. In this article he states, in an effort to treat pain more effectively and with the advent of may newer forms of opiod (narcotic) pain relievers – Oxycontin, Lortab, Methadone, Percodan, Percocet, Tramadol, Fentanyl – millions of Americans now take these medications on a regular basis for a wide range of diagnoses. While generally meant for short-term use, opiate pain medications have slowly been used for longer periods and for many ailments previously untreated with narcotics. While some benefit has been noted, an unfortunate, tragic consequence ensued.

We find ourselves in the midst of what the U.S. government and many state health agencies have called an accelerating “epidemic of prescription drug misuse, addiction and overdose.” This new narcotic epidemic seems to be almost the exclusive province of middle-age and older people. The number of narcotic overdose cases peaks in the 34-54 age group, while the total number of people who overdose in their 60s, 70s and 80s has doubed in the past five years. Before you or some one you love becomes a statistic, be aware of the seven sure signs of narcotic addiction and impending problems.

• Has a trusted loved one or family member expressed concern about your prescription opiate use?

• Do you have more than one doctor who prescribes the same medication? Or multiple prescriptions from multiple providers?

• Do you have medications secretly hidden in more than one location around your home?

• Have you taken these medications on a regular basis for more than two weeks? Or a month?

• Do these medications help you to function? Have you returned to work? If not, why? What tasks do the medications help you to perform? If you cannot answer these questions and you continue taking opiates, this is a very dangerous sign.

• Take a step back and look at your life since you began taking opiate medications. Are things getting better or worse? Have bad things begun to happen? Lose your job? Wreck your car? Divorce? Arrest?

• Last, and most importantly, have you ever been admitted to a hospital, for any reason, due to prescription drug use?

Solutions to the national prescription opiate problem are elusive and multi-factorial. But two issues stand out. Doctors give these medications too liberally, for longer periods than are warranted and for pain issues that might better be treated by other modalities. But patients ask for these medications specifically and often insist upon them. More education on both parts seems to be in order.

If these medications are part of your life or the life of someone about whom you care, take a look at the issue of opiate use. Be honest. Talk with your family. Talk with your doctor. Ask if there aren’t other less dangerous medications that might also be effective. Ask if there are other treatment options — physical therapy, acupuncture, support groups — which might allow you to talk a lower dose of narcotic medications or perhaps wean off them entirely. And, equally importantly, discuss whether a formal drug detox and rehabilitation program might be needed.

Stephen Seager is a psychiatrist and author of “The God Gene: The Promise of Prometheus.” Please click here for more information.

8 Most Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs have done wonders for patients suffering from any number of pains, illnesses and diseases. There’s no doubt that prescription drugs have changed the face of medicine and we’d be in trouble without them, but these miracle pills also come with a heavy dose of danger if misused and abused. Here are the 8 most abused prescription drugs:

  1. Stimulants: Stimulants are prescribed to increase alertness, attention and energy in patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and, occasionally, depression. Stimulants increase blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Prescription stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) work by stimulating the norepinephrine and dopamine chemicals in the brain and increasing dopamine activity. Stimulants often improve mood, relieve anxiety and may induce a sense of euphoria, which makes them highly addictive. Stimulants are commonly abused for recreational purposes and performance enhancement to achieve weight loss and increase energy. To achieve a greater high, stimulant abusers often crush up the pills and snort or inject them. Stimulant abuse can cause serious health consequences, such as rapid or irregular heartbeat, heart failure, delirium and digestive problems.
  2. Opioids: Opioids are commonly prescribed to treat pain because of their strong analgesic effects, but these powerful drugs can be highly addictive when abused. Opioids include a wide variety of prescription narcotics, including morphine (Kadian, Avinza), codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet) and other related painkillers. Morphine is typically used before and after surgeries to alleviate severe pain, whereas codeine is prescribed for mild pain and may be used to relieve coughs and diarrhea. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract and block the perception of pain. They can cause drowsiness, nausea and constipation, in addition to producing a sense of euphoria by stimulating the pleasure regions of the brain. It’s this euphoric feeling that makes opioids the most popular type of prescription drug to abuse. Many abusers will crush up opioids, such as OxyContin, and then snort or inject them to enhance their high, which consequently, increases their chances of an opioid overdose.
  3. Barbiturates: Barbiturates are within the family of central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are prescribed to treat anxiety, tension, epilepsy and sleep disorders and sometimes used as preanesthetics to promote sleep before surgery. CNS depressants are commonly referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers because they slow normal brain function by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA). The most common barbiturates prescribed are mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal). Barbiturates are commonly abused to counteract the symptoms of other drugs, both prescription and illegal drugs. Abusers may combine barbiturates with medications that cause drowsiness, such as prescription pills, over-the-counter cold and allergy medications and alcohol to achieve a greater high, but doing so increases the risk for slowed heart rate and respiration that could be fatal.
  4. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are also within the CNS depressants family. These sedatives are prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, convulsions and sleep disorders. Common benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium) and estazolam (ProSom), are generally prescribed for short-term relief to prevent abuse and dependence issues. Like barbiturates, benzodiazepines also affect the neurotransmitter gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA) to decrease brain activity and produce a drowsy or calming effect in anxious or restless people. People commonly abuse benzodiazepines to counteract the effects of other drugs. The drowsy, calming feeling of benzodiazepines is often enhanced when abusers take them with other prescription pills, OTC cold and allergy medications, and alcohol, which can lead to a slower heart rate and respiration and result in death. Also, discontinued use of CNS depressants in large doses can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures.
  5. Sleep Medications: Prescription sleeping pills fall into the family of CNS depressants and are used to treat insomnia, when people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. The most commonly prescribed sleeping pills to treat sleep disorders are zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata) and eszopiclone (Lunesta). Although these medications have similar side effects as the benzodiazepines, they are called nonbenzodiazepines because they are structurally different on a chemical level. Even though they appear to have a lower risk for addiction and doctors usually prescribe them for two weeks or less, they are frequently abused and can be highly addictive. People often become reliant on sleeping medications because they cannot fall asleep or stay asleep without them. Abusers may also become addicted to the drowsy and calming feeling caused by these sedatives.
  6. Anabolic Steroids: Anabolic steroids are used to increase muscle and bone mass. Anabolic steroids are legally prescribed by doctors to treat males who produce abnormally low amounts of testosterone so that they do not experience delayed puberty, osteoporosis and impotence. This muscle-building kind of steroid is also used to treat patients with AIDS and other diseases to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. Anabolic steroids are widely abused by teenagers and athletes of all levels. They can be taken through tablets or capsules, injected directly into the bloodstream, ointments or skin patches and oral preparations. Those who abuse steroids and use them for non-medical purposes have a higher risk of developing short-term and long-term health consequences, such as severe acne, stunted growth, aggression, high blood pressure, liver cysts and cancer and much more.
  7. Muscle Relaxers: Muscle relaxers are prescribed to treat acute muscle problems and chronic pain that cause painful muscle spasms. They can also be administered to treat pain from fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Baclofen, Tizanidine and Zanaflex are commonly prescribed to reduce spasticity at the level of the spinal cord, and certain benzodiazepines, like Valium, may be used to relieve muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers work by reducing muscle tone and relaxing tenseness, while others affect skeletal muscle fibers and nerves. Muscle relaxers offer temporary pain relief, but do not heal the problem. Much like other painkillers, muscle relaxers can be addictive because they offer pain relief, pleasure and a euphoric calmness. Those who abuse muscle relaxers may take more than the prescribed amount and mix it with other medications or alcohol to enhance their high.
  8. Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that has the same painkilling benefits of most opioids, but is more potent than morphine. In a class of its own, fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze) is generally prescribed to patients with chronic, severe pain and can be given to cancer patients. Due to its strong analgesic benefits, fentanyl is also a commonly abused drug. Like other opioids, fentanyl binds to the brain’s opiate receptors and work by blocking the perception of pain. As dopamine levels in the brain increase, users feel a sense of euphoria and calmness. People who abuse fentanyl will often mix the prescription drug with heroin, cocaine or other illegal drugs to amplify their high. Fentanyl abuse and addiction is accompanied by several short-term and long-term health consequences, such as respiratory depression and arrest, nausea, confusion, sedation, unconsciousness and coma.
This Guest Post is from Celina Jacobson at  Masters In Health Care

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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