31 Valeria Galindo – The Prescription Drug Epidemic

Valeria Galindo

ENG 101/ENH 111

The Prescription Drug Epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an opioid-related death happens every 19 minutes; this means 160 deaths per day and 1,120 a week. This is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States and has surpassed the deaths related to heroin and cocaine combined. This issue can be traced back to drug dealers and to medical professionals who abuse their power. Although the problem of opioids and the abuse of prescription drugs has been a huge problem with disastrous results, a solution to this widespread issue is made up of two steps: stopping use before it starts and intervening and rehabilitating drug users.

Over the past 15 years, the usage of prescription drugs has skyrocketed at an alarming rate. The history of the opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s when several new pain relievers were introduced into the medical market. These drugs were assured to not be addictive and said to have no negative result on their patients. After hearing this, doctors began to avidly prescribe these drugs, thinking that there would be no consequences (“Opioid Overdose Crisis” 1). Almost 10 years later, in 2005, opioids started becoming a huge problem. According to the article “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse: Facts and Fallacies” by Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti, who is an American Board-certified anesthesiologist, over a time span of 10 years, the number of Americans who were abusing prescription drugs went up from 6.2 to 15.2 million (402). There are several different causes that are responsible for these staggering numbers. Two of these are connected specifically to the practices of doctor shopping and the issues of drug theft. The most common method for acquiring these drugs is through doctor shopping. The Journal of the American Dental Association defines “doctor shopping” as “going from 1 physician’s … office to another and obtaining multiple prescriptions for opioids or other controlled substances for the same symptom” (Keith et. al. 266). Another cause is drug theft. This is a practice that is becoming extremely common. As stated in “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse: Facts and Fallacies”, this includes prescription forgery, altering prescriptions, stealing blank prescription pads, or calling pharmacies for prescriptions pretending to be a physician (Manchikanti 411). This involves theft from pharmacies, homes, and relatives who have the prescribed drugs. If the issues of doctor shopping and drug theft are not stopped, the usage of prescription drugs will continue to rise at an alarming rate.

The consequences of the abuse of prescription drugs are heart-breaking and this is an issue that is more extensive than most realize. In “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse: Facts and Fallacies”, it is explained that the National Survey on Drug Use and Heath is an annual survey that provides statistics about the use of drugs in the United States. In their 2005 survey, it was discovered that 19.7 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population, were currently using and abusing drugs (402). These numbers are completely shocking, and to put it in perspective, this means that 2 out of 10 people are using drugs. Now, fourteen years later, in 2019, the numbers only continue to rise. The use of opioids is not limited to any age, gender, or race. People of all ages are abusing prescription drugs and there is no clear-cut demographic. Although, this seems to be the biggest problem in relation to teenagers. Dr. Manchikanti states that “next to marijuana, prescription medications are the most commonly used drugs among teens to get high” (404). Teens are seemingly beginning to turn away from drugs such as nicotine and marijuana and turning to prescription drugs to get high. This can become a huge issue because the teenage years is when the brain is still developing and when addictions start to formulate. According to the article “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse: Facts and Fallacies”, a staggering 840,000 teenagers from ages 12-17 reported current abuse of prescription drugs, and during 2005, a total of 2.1 million teens had an experience in using opioids (Manchikanti 404). The trends have changed over a span of 10 years as more drugs have become available and are more lethal. This problem does not have an easy solution and requires a joint effort to resolve.

In trying to create a solution to the problem of opioid abuse, there are two steps. These steps include stopping use before it starts and intervening and rehabilitating drug users. One way that has been implemented to stop this before it starts is with a prescription monitoring program, or PMP. According to the American Dental Association, these programs collect and distribute data about the different prescriptions with a database consisting of the patient’s name, date of birth, sex, address, name of the drugs, and more important information (Keith et. al. 266). With this program, prescribers have the ability to check the history of their patients and will be informed if the patient has been doctor shopping. In one case researched by the American Dental Association, there was a 55-year-old woman who had medical history of temporomandibular joint pain and had gone through several surgeries in the past. After looking her name up in the system, it was brought to the physician’s attention that she had received 151 prescriptions of which 97 were opioids. With the help of the PMP, they found that she had been registered under two different names and had two addresses in different states. Once this is brought to the attention of the doctor, they can take action to put a stop to the abuse. As reported by Dr. David Keith, BDS, FDRSC, DMD, “action includes a discussion with the patient and primary care physician, resulting in referral to a program that evaluates and treats substance use disorder” (Keith et. al. 268). The PMP and rehabilitating drug users go hand in hand. This is one of the most important solutions because it does not directly stop the use of opioids, but it helps those who have struggled with it and ensures that they get help. As mentioned by the “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse”, there is a budget of $3 billion of federal funds to intervene in drug abuse (Manchikanti 412). With the help of the government and several other organizations, the number of people abusing opioids has slowly gone down and more people have become educated about the topic.

The issue of the abuse of opioids has created a health crisis that is out of control. Health care and law enforcement agencies were not prepared to handle this unforeseen epidemic that is affecting a broad range of Americans. Researchers and doctors have been on the lookout to find the best way to solve this issue and did through two steps: stopping use before it starts and intervening and rehabilitating drug users. Addiction to prescription drugs is one of the most serious problems now and is taking the lives of thousands a year. It is only through strict enforcement and education that this outbreak will be solved.


















Works Cited

“CDC Grand Rounds: Prescription Drug Overdoses – a U.S. Epidemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Jan. 2012, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6101a3.htm

Keith, David A., et. al. “The Prescription Monitoring Program Data.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 149, no. 4, 2018, pp. 266–272., Print.

Manchikanti, Laxmaiah. “National Drug Control Policy and Prescription Drug Abuse: Facts and Fallacies.” Pain Physician Journal, vol. 10: 399-424, 2007, pp. 400–424.

“Opioid Overdose Crisis.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, 22 Jan. 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis.




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