Testing for Prescription Drug Abuse

The Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic – Overview and Future Outlook

prescription drug abuseThe landscape of American’s drug problem has changed, and familiar street drugs are being replaced by the non-medical use of prescription- drugs-an issue that business, industries and schools globally.

Prescription drug abuse is the Nation’s fastest growing problem and is classified as an “epidemic” according to the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also states that more Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined, and prescription drug-induced deaths are higher than those from automobile accidents. 

The class of narcotic pain relievers, Known as Opioids, is largely contributing, to the prescription drug abuse epidemic, apparent by the fact that the use of these powerful medications has increased by a staggering 380 percent’ in only ten years.

Opioids Contribute to the major portion of prescription drug abuse!

What Are Opioids and How Do They Work? Opioids, also called  narcotics, are drugs that alleviate pain, depress body functions and reactions, and, when taken in large doses, cause a strong euphoric feeling. They are considered Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substance Act because they have a strong potential for abuse or addiction. The opioid class of narcotics includes morphine, codeine, and heroin. Synthetic opiates are hydrocodone (Vicodin®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percodan®), meperidine (Demerol®), propoxyphene (Darvon®, Darvocet®) and methadone. Common side affects include drowsiness and mental confusion, and, depending on the dosage, depressed respiration-leading to respiratory distress and death.
An Overview of the Problem:
In a 2011 survey  by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, it was reported that, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances in the United States, accounting for one death every 19 minutes. In fact, enough opioid pain relievers are sold every year to medicate every adult in the United States with a typical dose of 5 mg of hydrocodone every four hours for a month². That is an enormous amount of medication and it lines up with the statistic released from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) stating “Americans consume 80 percent of the opiate painkillers produced in the world.” Sadly, every hour a baby is now also born in the United States with symptoms of opiate withdrawal³.
Legitimate medical uses of opioids typically include: (1) cases of acute, severe pain for a brief period of time and (2) end of life care. However, a recent study by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute found that during the four-year period of the study, almost half of all Schedule II opioid prescriptions were for minor back injuries. Many injured workers remain on opioids long-term—nearly one in twelve injured workers who were prescribed narcotic painkillers were reported to still be on the drugs three to six months later, opening themselves up for prescription drug abuse