Painkillers: a Growing Epidemic

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Painkillers: A Growing Epidemic

I visit my grandmother every month at her house. We relive all of the happy moments we shared when I was growing up. On my latest visit, she did not want to talk about the good times we shared, and seemed almost annoyed I was there at all. After searching around her house, I noticed an empty bottle of prescription painkillers. I remembered her telling me the last time I talked to her that she was starting to take a new prescription pain medication, but that was only two weeks ago. My grandmother would never abuse drugs, so why was the bottle empty already? I asked her about the medication and she told me that she was taking up to eight pills a day. She had misinterpreted the instructions and was taking twice the maximum allowed per day and had become dependent on the drugs unknowingly. The abuse of painkillers is becoming an all too familiar problem throughout the country, and the results are tearing people apart. The abuse does not discriminate. People from all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds have suffered the effects of pain killer abuse, directly and indirectly. The two age groups that are the most likely to abuse painkillers are teenagers and the elderly, and the reasons for the abuse, in general, are very different. Teenagers tend to believe that the use of painkillers is safe because there are legitimate uses for them. A large amount of teenagers do not realize how dangerous and addictive these medications can be when they are not taking them for their intended purpose and under a doctor’s supervision. Since 1990 the amount of teenagers that abuse painkillers has gone up five fold. A recent study has shown that about one in every five teenagers has abused prescription painkillers (The Partnership for a Drug Free America, 2010). With such a high rate of abuse among teenagers, they should be taught the dangers of prescription drugs as well as illegal substances. The elderly are the most at risk at abusing pain killers because they usually are given multiple and long-term prescriptions. The abuse is usually unintentional misuse for many reasons that include not following the instructions correctly, mixing medications, and the fear of asking for assistance. The elderly make up approximately 14% of the population in the United States, but account for over 25% of prescription medications used. It is projected that the number of elderly people in America that abuse painkillers will increase almost 200% from 2000 to 2020 and is present in 12% to 15% of elderly individuals who seek medical attention (Meyer, 2010). With the baby-boomer generation growing older, it is safe to assume that the number of elderly abusers will greatly increase. The abuse of painkillers could be drastically reduced if it were not for how easily attainable they are. Some teenagers say that it is easier to get prescription painkillers on the street than alcohol. They can also get their hands on the powerful painkillers by raiding the medicine cabinets in their homes or their friend’s homes. There are sites on the Internet where people can purchase the medications without a prescription and have them delivered right to their door as well. One could simply walk in to a clinic, tell the doctor that he or she is having pains, and without even having an examination in some cases, have a prescription from a legitimate doctor. Some clinics have posted signs on their doors stating that they will not prescribe painkillers to help combat the problem (Silversides, 2009). This does not seem like the right solution, however, as people who go to clinics may have problems where prescribing a painkiller would be helpful. The elderly can even be put at risk by their doctors. The physicians themselves fail to recognize the abuse in the elderly fairly often. This can be caused by many reasons: the physician is too embarrassed to have his or her patient screened for abuse, the physician is not aware of...
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