A dictionary definition of prescription drug abuse would describe it as the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited ("Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction."). This is a growing problem in America. An estimated twenty percent of people in the United States have admitted to using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons and the number is growing. Prescription drug abuse affects a wide scope of people. It ranges from bored teenagers who get hooked on these pills to adults who get prescribed these pills and grow dependence to elderly people who are given a variety of different drugs to keep them comfortable. A major reason prescription drug abuse is happening on such a large scale is that the drugs are more available than they should be. In recent years doctors are prescribing more drugs for health problems than ever before, resulting in increased abuse of prescription drugs (“Prescription Drug Abuse: MedlinePlus.”). Prescription drug abuse is a tremendous problem in the United States and statistics indicate that it is still on the rise.
Substance abuse is not a new problem in America. Over a hundred years ago laudanum was a widely abused drug. It was a mixture of opium and alcohol that remedied pain, sleeplessness, anxiety, and coughing. Many doctors used it to treat patients despite the fact that it was highly addictive. The American Civil War caused the use of morphine to grow drastically to help wounded soldiers but there were other uses and it was effortless to obtain. Morphine injection kits complete with a supply of the medication could be found in Sears catalogs. In the late 1800’s a person could buy these substances from anyone who sold patent medicines. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act in 1914 began to turn things around. The Pure Food and Drug Act mandated that all ingredients must be labeled. The Harrison Narcotic Tax Act handed control of these addictive substances to doctors and it made that a prescription and a payment of tax was necessary for distribution ("Prescription Drug Abuse History."). One would think that putting the drugs in the hands of doctors would curb the substance abuse problem but unfortunately the abuse of prescription drugs remains a major problem and cause of death in the United States today.
Many factors contribute to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. The first cause is lack of knowledge about the drugs. Many patients are unaware of how their medications should be taken, disposed of, or even the side effects. Many people believe that prescription drugs are safe to be taken under any circumstance because doctors prescribe them. Patients believe that prescription pills are safer than illegal drugs; this is not always the case. Doctors prescribe certain pills to people because they believe that the benefits will be greater than the risk in that particular case. When taking drugs in a way other than prescribed, for a reason other than its main purpose, or that are not prescribed to you, the outcome could be fatal. In fact, more people die from prescription drug overdoses a year than from cocaine and heroin overdoses combined. It is crucial to the wellbeing of our country that doctors, pharmacists, and patients all work together to ensure the patient is knowledgeable about their prescription drugs. When a doctor prescribes a drug they should ask patients about all other medications they may be taking to make sure the prescribed medication is compatible. On the other hand the patient must be completely honest with the doctor even if they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with sharing their private information. Both doctors and pharmacists should describe to the patient exactly the purpose of the medication, its intended uses, and its risk factors. Doctors and pharmacists should also describe to the patient their dosage information and how the medication should...
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