Rx Temptation in Your Medicine Cabinet
You can find a lot of news on prescription drugs these days, including opiate painkillers, the anti-anxiety meds known as benzodiazepines and drugs like Ritalin and Concerta for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The common elements among all of them: These prescription drugs can all be abused and they may all be in your house, right now. You may not think about it, but prescription drugs are major gateways to drug abuse. They are therapeutic at prescribed doses, but misuse can happen quickly and research shows the opportunity for misuse is increasing. Here’s a sampling:
- Painkillers (oxycodone and hydrocodone). Researchers at George Washington University found a huge increase in the number of painkillers prescribed by emergency departments from 2001-2010, while pain-related complaints in ERs increased only slightly.
- ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera). Overall prescriptions for ADHD medications rose more than 35 percent in recent years, according to Express Scripts. The greatest increase was for pills prescribed to women ages 18 to 25. In childhood, boys outnumber girls in ADHD diagnoses and treatment, but by age 26, more women are being treated than men.
- Benzodiazepines. A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine said that benzo prescriptions rose 12 percent a year from 2000 to 2009. The combination of benzodiazepine prescriptions with opiate prescriptions rose accordingly.
Many prescription drug stories focus on opiates like oxycodone and hydrocodone, but benzodiazepines are involved in many prescription drug overdoses and deaths. And benzo prescription rates are rising. Many people do not realize the dangers of anti-anxiety medicines or see how they are abused. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 16,651 narcotic overdose deaths in 2010. Of those deaths, 30 percent of the victims tested positive for both narcotics and benzos. In addition, benzodiazepines contribute to dependence and other health problems like increased risk of falls among seniors. Out of 13 billion visits to primary care doctors over a nine-year period (2000-2009), 12.6 percent involved prescriptions for benzos or opiates. That doesn’t even include such drugs received in other settings, such as regular hospital stays or ER visits. You can help prevent prescription drug abuse by knowing what’s in your medicine cabinet and when and how to get rid of it. If you are in the Jacksonville area, join us Sunday, April 13, at Doctors Express (13457 Atlantic Blvd) at 3 p.m. for a quick primer on the perils in your medicine cabinet. If you have unused prescriptions for disposal, the next DEA Drug Takeback Day is Saturday, April 26. Check their website to find a location near you or ask your local pharmacist how to dispose of medicines safely.