Reduce the Demand!

Misuse of prescription opioids is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. And it will only get worse unless the population, especially youth, realizes that nonmedical use of these potent pain relievers is un cool and dangerous. A common misconception is that these substances are safe because they are prescribed by physicians and dispensed through pharmacies. Drug buyers can indeed be more confident of the "product" when it's a trademarked tablet rather than white powder in a plastic bag. A 26-year-old said, "My drug of choice is pharmaceutica l heroin." But, just like heroin, these trademarked substances present the same deadly dangers of overdose and addiction. And buying, selling, or giving away these substances is against the law—even if they were prescribed for you.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 100 people die from drug overdoses every day in the United States. The CDC...
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Intervening on Alcohol? Style Matters!

As we commemorate Alcohol Awareness Month, we are reprinting the Addiction Medicine Update, "Intervening on Alcohol? Style Matters!," originally published in April 2012. The World Health Organization identifies "The harmful use of alcohol [as] a global problem which compromises both individual and social development. It results in 2.5 million deaths each year. Alcohol is the world's third largest risk factor for premature mortality, disability, and loss of health." ( WHO ) Yet, perhaps because of our collective affection for beverage alcohol, we don't get alarmed. As Frank Bruni points out in his commentary on the death of Whitney Houston, it's other drugs that make the headlines. ( New York Times ) But some of us are too close to the dangers of alcohol to be complacent—perhaps because we witness alcohol problems as a family member or treat addiction as a clinician. Fortunately, our roles give us opportunities to help people...
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Reduce the Supply!

Epidemic misuse of prescription pain medication in the United States is partly due to the availability of opioid analgesics (medication in pills, patches, injections, nasal sprays, and even lollipops that contain natural or synthetic substances that cause pain relief and euphoria by stimulating endorphin receptors in the brain). Can individuals and communities possibly do anything to reduce or reverse this deadly problem? The answer is yes . Specific actions by individuals, healthcare professionals, and others can r educe the supply of opioids available for misuse and addiction without denying pain relief to those in need. National surveys show 60 to 70 percent of people who used opioids nonmedically obtained them from a friend or relative. About 11 percent took them without asking. At home, securely lock up any prescription opioids you may need and get rid of any you don't need.Visitors who are drug-experimenters or opioid-addicted—these could be relatives, teenage...
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Too Many Painkillers?

United States data for 2009 showed that more individuals died from unintentional drug overdoses (37,485) than from motor vehicle crashes (36,284). These casualties included individuals with histories of extensive drug use as well as drug-naïve experimenters, partly because overdoses are often "mixed," and anyone consuming a combination of sedating substances, such as alcohol plus medications originally prescribed for pain, sleep, or anxiety, can't predict their maximum effect or the timing of it. The rise in overdose deaths is linked to increases in availability and misuse of prescription opioid pain medications (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone), which caused more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined Prescription opioids became more available because societal expectations of physicians and other practitioners altered opioid prescribing patterns. In the past, medicines such as morphine were used sparingly, mostly for treatment of brief pain, like after major surgery. Opioids were also used to relieve...
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