How to Recognize and Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse
America spent more than $260 billion on prescription drugs in 2011, according to recent government reports. As a result, about 50 percent of all Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, with 10 percent consuming four or more.
While doctors are prescribing fewer “useless” antibiotics, mainly due to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, consumption of pain medication is on the rise, creating an equally dangerous situation for patients. The use of opioid analgesics, a class of drugs designed to suppress your perception of pain by binding to opioid receptors, has increased a whopping 300 percent from1999-2010. Unfortunately, an increase of that caliber does not come with consequences.
During that time, death rates in people ages 15 and older involving pain medications more than tripled, highlighting America’s new drug problem.
Unmasking Prescription Drug Abuse
As a healthcare professional, you’re trained to help people and not judge them, which can make for an uncomfortable situation when addressing potential drug abuse in patients. Fortunately, other healthcare workers can offer support in identifying and preventing this problem.
Nearly 70 percent of patients visit their physician at least once every two years, placing doctors in a unique situation to not only treat, but identify drug abuse in patients. According to Jay Rooth, Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney, the most commonly abused drugs are opioids, anti-anxiety medication and stimulants.
Detecting “Doctor Shopping”
While symptoms vary according to which drug patients may be hooked on, one of the most common signs to look for is “doctor shopping,” the practice of visiting multiple physicians in hopes of obtaining several prescriptions. Physicians can detect doctor shopping by checking state RX reporting systems, which document and report all prescription drug transactions to the state Board of Pharmacy. This system can be a powerful tool in helping healthcare workers to identify drug abuse.
Pinpointing Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Other symptoms of drug abuse include frequent visits to the doctor and unscheduled refill requests. People addicted to prescription drugs often exhibit signs of emotional distress including depression, confusion, irritability and poor judgment. Physical symptoms of drug abuse may include weight loss, irregular heartbeat, restlessness, involuntary and rapid eye movement, decreased breathing rate and poor coordination.
Empathy Goes a Long Way
Offering compassion, rather than criticism, is key in helping patients overcome prescription drug addiction. A trusting doctor-patient relationship opens the doorway for better communication, making the patient more likely to ask for help.
Rates of prescription drug abuse are on the rise, with addicts and other abusers finding new means of obtaining drugs and keeping their habit undetected all the time. Considering the risks associated with these behaviors, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to know how to detect and prevent the abuse of prescription drugs.
About the Author: Marlena Stoddard is a freelance writer who received her BA from the University of Georgia.
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