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Prescription Drug Addiction Plagues Americans of All Ages
Over the past few years the dangers of prescription drugs have been widely publicized by the deaths of celebrities like Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith, both of whom died as a result of overdoses and complications from prescription drug addiction.
But the average American still hasn’t awakened to the real threat sitting unattended in the medicine cabinet. Teenagers, young adults, their parents, and their grandparents, still consider prescription drugs safer than illicit street drugs, even while deaths from prescription drug addiction continue to escalate among all age groups at rates far beyond traditional street drugs.
Close to seven million Americans abused prescription drugs last year — more than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and marijuana combined — and that is 80 percent higher since 2000. And deaths from prescription drug overdoses and complications among Americans from 45 to 54 now surpass motor vehicle deaths as the number one cause of accidental death in the country.
Opioid pain killers with brand names like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab and dozens of generics containing similar active ingredients such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are among the most dangerous, and have the highest incidence of prescription drug addiction.
More than 180 million legal pain killer prescriptions are dispensed every year, and thousands of pain killers are consumed illegally by people from teens to senior citizens. The number of Americans requiring treatment for abuse of painkillers soared 321 percent in the decade from 1995 to 2005, according to federal statistics.
For decades, Florida has had the reputation as a hub for cocaine and heroin smuggling from South and Central America, glorified in the TV series “Miami Vice” and movies such as “Scarface”. But a recent report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission revealed that deaths from prescription drugs last year were three times higher than all illicit drugs combined.
Len Paulozzi, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told Congress recently that physicians are not trained effectively in long-term therapy involving opioid pain killers. They don’t fully understand the dangers of prescription drug addiction, nor the dangerous side effects especially when such drugs are combined with other drugs or alcohol. “There are guidelines out there,” Paulozzi said, “but we don’t think that they’re being routinely followed.”
Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Joseph Biden, (D, Delaware), considering the problems of prescription drug addiction so severe, has proposed August as the annual “National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month”, and has placed the resolution before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Prescription drugs, which so many people depend on to live their lives more comfortably, or even to live at all, are still an accident waiting to happen both to those who abuse the drugs and unfortunately, even for those with legitimate prescriptions. If you or someone you know has an abuse problem or a prescription drug addiction, the answer is an immediate call for help to a medical drug detox.
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