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A Review of Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
Drug addict is an ugly term that is generally associated with “junkies” on the street looking for a fix. The truth is that drug addiction also comes in the form of prescription drug abuse. According to a January 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. Prescription medications are also the second most abused drugs after marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and physicians and pharmacists want to change this statistic.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
- Opioids: Painkillers such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, meperidine and oxycodone.
- Central nervous system depressants: Sedatives like diazepam and alprazolam.
- Stimulants: “Uppers” such as methylphenidate and amphetamines.
Other prescription drugs that are often abused include cough medicines and tranquilizers.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the abuse often begins as improper use, like taking someone else’s prescriptions or taking prescribed drugs when they are not needed. Improper use may lead to taking the pharmaceutical in higher quantities or in ways that are not prescribed, which can lead to abuse.
Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Strategies
Physicians and pharmacists are on the front-lines to help identify, manage and stop prescription drug abuse and misuse. Here’s how:
- Continuing medical education: Physicians and pharmacists attend seminars that teach them to screen for drug misuse and abuse, as well as identify at-risk patients.
- Recognizing the signs of abuse or misuse: Pharmacists look for signs of prescription alterations or falsifications. They may take note of patients asking for the brand-name versions of commonly abused drugs instead of the generic alternatives, patients who don’t know the prescribing physician and those who insist on paying the full cost of the medicine in cash instead of the insurance co-pay.
- Physicians look for signs such as frequent refill requests, requests for greater number of pills and patients who see several doctors who are not specialists. Doctors are also on the lookout for those who fake legitimate illnesses or injuries and seek medication, or pressure them into prescribing a commonly abused medication.
- Physician reporting: Pharmacists have an ethical duty to ensure the appropriate dispensing of prescription medications. In the September 2013 issue of “New England Journal of Medicine,” Dr. Troyen Brennan reports that inappropriate prescribing—intentional and unintentional—has helped fuel prescription drug abuse. Some pharmacies take note of physicians who prescribe large quantities of commonly abused medications or controlled substances to a single patient or a several patients. They then report the prescribers and patients to state and federal authorities.
- Pain Contracts: Doctors who work with patients who have chronic pain may ask them to sign contracts that state that they won’t obtain the drug from another physician or sell it to others. The patient also agrees to undergo random urine tests, schedule regular pain management-related appointments, prevent the theft of the medication and not refill the prescription too early.
- Prescriptiondatabases: Physicians and pharmacists have access to prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) databases in their respective states. The database shows the patient’s name, the names of medications, the names of the prescribing doctors and the different pharmacies a patient uses. Since the databases are generally specific to each state, many states have laws that prohibit the filling of prescriptions for controlled medicines written by out-of-state doctors.
The most effective prescription drug abuse prevention strategy is to help individuals develop the skills to make healthy decisions and be in an environment that supports their intentions. If you are ready to make a positive change and eliminate your dependence on prescription drugs, right now is the perfect time to reach out for help.
The Treatment Specialist provides information and treatment resources for those seeking treatment for prescription drug addiction. Call to connect with a treatment center and to receive a free confidential assessment at 866-644-7911