You might recognize some of these names as great American actors or performers, but what else do they have in common? They all died from lethal doses and combinations of prescription medication.
Prescription medication is reported to be on the rise in the last decade – meaning more doctors are prescribing rather than diagnosing or offering natural solutions. There are a variety of prescriptions that are pushed by pharmaceutical companies and doctors, but what’s prescribed the most? Pain killers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety and sedatives.
Prescription painkillers work by binding to receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. These powerful drugs can create a feeling of euphoria, cause physical dependence, and, in some people, lead to addiction. Prescription painkillers also cause sedation and slow down a person’s breathing. Larger doses can cause breathing to slow down so much that breathing stops, resulting in a fatal overdose. (Resource: Center for Disease Control & Prevention)
According to studies, U.S. prescription stimulants have increased from 5 million in 1991 to nearly 45 million by 2010. They also report that 75.5 million users of opioids in 1991 have increased to 209.5 million in 2010. And unfortunately, the accidental deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999 and now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine… COMBINED!
So what does this mean?
In my opinion… it means that our healthcare providers have stopped looking for the underlying causes of medical conditions. It means that a diagnosis can be an easy gateway toward unnecessary prescription drugs. And it means that prescription medications are too easily accessible.
As a person trying supplements and other forms of natural pain relief, it brought up a good question in my mind – why aren’t doctors pushing natural solutions?
When my back pain increased at age 19, my doctor at the time quickly prescribed a heavy-dose of narcotics. A natural approach could have been the most beneficial at such a young age. I am trying some natural solutions for pain now – you can read more in my Unnatural Pain post.
Personally, I’ve never had the desire or need to take more than what was prescribed to me. I’ve been conscious of my use, have never “doctor shopped”, and have always feared judgment from others – especially pharmacists.
I limited my use of the pain killers, but unfortunately that’s not always the case for young people.
Honestly, most studies can be taken subjectively because we do not know the parameters or demographics for the study. Some CDC studies say that “3 out of 4 people misuse prescription pain killers that were originally prescribed for someone else, like a relative or friend”.
The truth is that young people find prescription drugs to be accessible because their parents or guardians have cabinets full of medications. Reports also say that 2 million people reported using prescription painkillers non-medically for the first time in the last year.
With prescriptions and deaths on the rise, it’s important that we understand how to prevent abuse and how to keep ourselves accountable.
How to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Others or Yourself:
- Lock up the medications. Put them in a safe place that is out of reach for children and teenagers.
- Monitor your use. Write down what time you take the medications and the dosage. This way you won’t take more than you need.
- Build a relationship with your doctor. When they understand your medical history or conditions, they are more likely to work with managing your pain the best way possible – whether it’s through prescriptions, physical therapy, etc.
- Be honest with the people around you. They will hold you accountable and maybe offer better solutions to treat your pain or anxiety.
- Exercise instead. It is proven to relieve stress, anxiety and even chronic pain.
On a personal level, I suffer from a variety of chronic pain conditions – including [but not limited to] Endometriosis and Fibromyalgia. Though I’m trying natural solutions to treat my pain, it will not decrease all of my pain completely. Therefore, I do use certain medications to help relax my muscles and relieve flare-ups.
There is a stigma attached to these medications. Using prescription medications does not automatically make me a “substance abuser”, nor does it apply to every patient. People with cancer or that suffer from chronic pain do take prescriptions to live or function “normally”. This helps us to sleep at night, get through painful hours of sitting or standing, and lift our spirits by decreasing pain on the worst days.
The point is that not all of us are abusing our prescriptions. Many of us understand the laws and side effects. We are just trying to live like everyone else.
So please keep this in mind when discussing “abused prescriptions” or “at risk” groups. It can really be offensive to be judged over medications that help us due to conditions that we cannot control.
I do, however, believe there is an epidemic in our country right now. I believe that doctors should offer natural solutions to patients with less severe or acute conditions and I think we need to start taking accountability as a nation.
There is good news on a state wide level as well. More and more prescription drug programs are taking effect to prevent substance abuse. Some of the programs include Health Care Provider Accountability, Drug Monitoring Programs and Substance Abuse Treatments.
Here is a list of laws being passed in each state across the country – State Laws.
We encourage you to talk about your prescriptions with your doctor, family or pharmacist. Make certain that there aren’t negative interactions with certain prescriptions – especially if prescribed by different doctors. Talk to your children, parents and loved ones. Create a community of knowledge and help prevent more accidental overdoses with prescription medications. Learn more at the National Council on Patient Information and Education.
*Graphs in the copy taken from CDC.gov.