Doctor: Prescription drug abuse poses a widespread problem
Addiction comes in many forms including alcohol, gambling, and drugs, but not everyone may immediately consider the widespread abuse of prescription medication.
Prescription pain medications are prescribed for a number of reasons for women and men each year from toothaches to back pain, but these narcotics don't always fix the problem.
Sometimes, they create an even bigger one, addiction.
"The risk of the narcotic is not being appreciated and as a result, people are becoming dependent on them," Medical Director at Jackson Recovery Center Dr. David Paulsrud said.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control found that every three minutes a woman is admitted to the emergency room for a prescription drug related problem.
Paulsrud said it's a problem that's been addressed many times before.
"It got so bad and so many people were dying of prescription overdose that they passed a narcotics law that regulated narcotics. That was in 1914. Now we're back to the same thing," Paulsrud said.
Dr. Paulsrud said doctors are over-prescribing narcotics for just about everything. And, the addictive quality of these opioid drugs like codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are causing people to become dependent.
"What really irritates me is that people get blamed for the addiction rather than the drug," Paulsrud said.
About 4,000 more men died from prescription overdoses than women in 2010. But now, the gap between the gender seems to be closing, the CDC reports the number of women dying from prescription drug overdoses has skyrocketed by more than 400-percent since 1999.
"I think there's a deep prejudice in the medical profession about women and I think physicians are much more likely to prescribe a narcotic to a woman than a man," Paulsrud said.
Paulsrud believes this may be the case because women may be viewed as more sensitive to pain. The CDC says there has been a spike in deaths among women because they are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed higher doses of medication, and use them for longer periods of time than men.
A real warning here, Dr. Paulsrud said the potential risks of combining narcotics with other medication or alcohol can make for a lethal combination.
Dr. Paulsrud estimated about 20-percent of admitted patients at Jackson Recovery Center have some type of addiction to narcotics.
And, in many cases, they have also turned to other medications to supplement their addiction.
Local pharmacists said they have seen their fair share of clients repeatedly trying to get their hands on more prescription painkillers than they're prescribed.
Pharmacist Wendell Simmonds, at the Leeds North Side Pharmacy, said the pharmacies and doctor's offices notify each other when they think someone is abusing the system.
"Network, where if we have somebody we think is a problem we will alert and it goes on down the chain, so everybody's aware of somebody who might be a problem," Simmonds said.
Simmonds said his pharmacy receives, or issues an alert, about twice a month.
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