The Medical Profession Must Monitor the Abuse of Prescription Drugs

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The abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest growing drug problem, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even classified it as an epidemic. Since 1990, deaths from unintentional drug overdoses have increased by over 500%, and most of this figure can be credited to prescription painkillers. These painkillers now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported in 2004 that 14 million patients misuse their medications and more than 20,000 cases a year result in an unintentional death. Prescription drugs should only be taken exactly as directed by a medical professional. These accidents can be prevented, and it is the medical profession that must monitor the abuse of prescription drugs. The health risks associated vary depending on the drug. For example, abuse of opioids, narcotics and pain relievers can slow or stop breathing. The abuse of depressants, including tranquilizers, barbiturates and other sedatives, can result in seizures, respiratory depression and decreased heart rate. Stimulant abuse can lead to high body temperature, irregular heart rate and cardiovascular system failure. Many of the drugs responsible for these deaths come from prescriptions generated by doctors who are seeking to help patients with real pain. It’s true: conscientious and well-trained doctors are partly to blame for the rapidly rising death rate among society from prescription pills. Taking care of patients does not mean prescribing a quick, easy refill. And refilling they are. In 2005, Medicaid spent $5.4 billion on antipsychotic drugs including Seroquel because of its prevalent misuse to treat Alzheimer’s. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that 30% of the nursing home population is receiving an antipsychotic, yet 21% of those cases do not suffer from psychosis. And the trend extends to all age groups, not just the elderly. In 2007 doctors filled more than 45 million prescriptions for an...
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