Prescription Drugs: The Escalation of Use and Abuse

March 28, 2017

“It’s becoming a sadly common story. People get prescribed painkillers. They become addicted and they seek out cheaper and more potent drugs like heroin and synthetic opioids.” –Lulu Garcia Navarro, Family member of an opioid victim, NPR News (2017)

Throughout the United States, prescription drug abuse has become a major public health concern.

rx.jpgIn 2015, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled. Findings have indicated that the two distinct but interconnected trends that are driving America’s opioid overdose epidemic include:

  • an increase in prescribed opioid drugs
  • a recent surge in illicit opioid overdoses, driven mainly by heroin and illegally-made Fentanyl

The use of highly addictive opioid prescription drugs has repercussions that extend far beyond the individual user. Economic consequences include its impact on work and educational productivity as well as the cost of treatment and incarceration. According to a 2011 study by the American Public Health Association, in 2006, “nonmedical use of prescription painkillers imposed a cost of $53.4 billion on the US economy, including $42 billion in lost productivity, $8.2 billion in increased criminal justice costs, $2.2 billion for drug abuse treatment, and $944 million in medical complications” (AHPA, 2015).

Although a variety of treatments are available for heroin and prescription drug addiction, it is also vital and far more cost effective to help prevent the health risk behaviors related to opioid drug abuse. Botvin LifeSkills Training is an effective skills-based and evidence-based prevention program that can be utilized as a strategic measure to combat the growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse. And now, National Health Promotion Associates, the researchers behind LifeSkills Training, has developed a middle school prescription drug abuse prevention program. The program utilizes both digital and face-to-face intervention modalities to help young adults learn healthy behavioral social and self-regulation skills such as managing stress and anxiety, as well as drug resistance skills. “The combination of drug resistance skills and life skills has been proven to be a powerful formula for preventing drug use and can be carried over throughout their teen years” (Botvin, 2016).

According to research conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) the use of effective prevention programs like LifeSkills Training have shown to produce a  50-to-1 return, which has been noted as the highest return on investment of any substance abuse prevention curriculum studied.

It has never been a more important time to continue to pressure our legislative representatives, public health agencies, and school administrators to implement programs like LifeSkills Training as a means to help young adults make healthy choices and avoid the damaging effects of prescription drug use and abuse.

Contributing Writer: Madeline Liongson recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies as well as a Minor in Psychology. Her previous volunteer experience includes working with a wide range of students and healthcare professionals from diverse populations in Connecticut, New York and London, UK. Currently Madeline serves as the youngest Youth Board Member for the American Red Cross in the Metro New York Territory and works as a part-time Administrative Assistant at a Speech Language Pathology and Social Development center while she is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health.

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Swiss study reveals that 1 in 7 students has dabbled in “smart” drugs

November 26, 2013

One in seven Swiss students has already tried to enhance his or her performance with prescription medication or drugs. Besides psychostimulants like Ritalin, students also consume sedatives, alcohol or cannabis. These substances are mostly only taken during the exam preparation period. Only a narrow majority of polled students reported the desired effects, as a representative study conducted by researchers at the universities of Zurich and Basel reveals.

American and European studies prove that students use prescription medication or drugs to enhance their cognitive performance. Researchers from the universities of Zurich and Basel examined whether Swiss students have also experimented with neuroenhancement and which substances they take by conducting a survey of 6,725 students with an average age of 23 at the two universities and ETH Zurich.

Majority consumes soft enhancers

Around 94 percent of the students surveyed had already heard of neuroenhancement. 13.8 percent of these students had tried to improve their cognitive performance with prescription medication or legal or illegal drugs at least once during their degrees. The substance most used was alcohol (5.6%), followed by methylphenidate such as Ritalin (4.1%), sedatives and soporifics (2.7%), cannabis (2.5%), beta-blockers (1.2%), amphetamines (0.4%), and cocaine (0.2%).

The respondents primarily took these substances during the exam preparation period, only consuming stimulating substances rarely in the exam situation or for general stress during their degrees. While daily neuroenhancement was a rare occurrence (1.8%), the majority consumed “soft enhancers” such as caffeinated products, non-prescription vitamin products or herbal sedatives before their last big exam – around a third even every day.

The number of Swiss students who take neuroenhancing drugs is comparable with recent studies conducted at European universities. “The purported frequency of neuroenhancement at Swiss universities needs to be put into perspective as we asked about psychoactive and calmative substances,” says PD Michael Schaub, the study leader and head of the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction.

Narrow majority obtained desired effect

As a rule, advanced students who also had a job alongside their degrees and reported higher stress levels consumed performance-enhancing substances more frequently. Certain differences were apparent depending on the degree course: In Switzerland, students of the subjects architecture (19.6%), journalism (18.2%), chemistry (17.6%), economics (17.1%), medicine (16.2%), or pharmaceutics (16.1%) had more experience of neuroenhancement than budding mathematicians (8.6%) or sports students (7%), for instance.

According to the survey, the intended effect was only achieved in a narrow majority of the students, which is why only around half would actually take these substances to boost their brain power again. “The development of neuroenhancement at Swiss universities should be monitored as students constitute a high-risk group that is exposed to increased stress and performance pressure during their degrees,” concludes Schaub. “However, there is no need to intervene as yet.”

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Three Attorneys General Ask Clothing Store to Stop Selling Prescription Drug T-Shirts

September 13, 2013

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The attorneys general of Florida, Kentucky and Maine have asked the Los Angeles clothing store Kitson to stop selling T-shirts featuring the prescription drugs Vicodin, Xanax and Adderall. The shirts include the marketing tagline, “Pop one on and you’ll feel better.”

The store has multiple locations in California and sells its clothing online, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In the letter, the attorneys general wrote, “that your company selected three drugs for the jersey names—Xanax, Vicodin and Adderall—that are among the most abused prescription drugs, along with the marketing tagline ‘Pop one on and you’ll feel better,’ demonstrates not an interest in educating the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse but rather a most cynical effort to profit on the backs of the thousands of lives lost to this epidemic.” They added, “Prescription drug abuse is not fun or humorous. We urge you to pull these shirts from your shelves.”

The company responded on Facebook, “Kitson will stop selling the t-shirts in question if tv networks agree to stop accepting ad revenue from prescription drug companies.”

In August, The Partnership at Drugfree.org President and CEO Stephen J. Pasierb sent a letter to Kitson CEO Christopher Lee, asking him to stop selling the T-shirts. “As recent research from the Partnership shows, teens and parents alike do not understand the risk associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs,” he wrote. “Tongue-in-cheek products that normalize and promote prescription drug abuse only serve to reinforce the misperception about the danger associated with abusing medicine and put more teens at risk.”

In June, Urban Outfitters announced it would discontinue selling products that promote prescription drug abuse, in response to a campaign by public health groups, state attorneys general and legislators.

Source: http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/advocacy/three-attorneys-general-ask-clothing-store-to-stop-selling-prescription-drug-t-shirts?utm_source=Join%20Together%20Daily&utm_campaign=e7590ab36a-JT_Daily_News_Music_Festival_Attendees&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_97f4d27738-e7590ab36a-221306665


Rate of Prescription Drug Abuse Among Young Adults Holds Steady at 5 Percent

September 4, 2013

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A national survey released Wednesday finds 5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month, which are similar to rates in the previous two years. The survey also found rates of teen drinking, including binge drinking, in the past month were lower last year compared with 2002 and 2009.

Prescription drug abuse rates among adults ages 18 to 25 was significantly lower last year than in 2009, when 6.4 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA found 11.2 percent of Americans drove under the influence of alcohol at least once last year, compared with 11.1 percent in 2011 and 14.2 percent in 2002. Approximately 9 percent of the population—23.9 million Americans—12 years and older used illicit drugs in the previous month.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, the survey found, with 7.3 percent of Americans saying they are current users. The number of people ages 12 and older who said they used heroin in the past year increased from 373,000 in 2007, to 669,000 in 2012.

“These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse we must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction. We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help.”

Source: http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/alcohol/rate-of-prescription-drug-abuse-among-young-adults-holds-steady-at-5-percent?utm_source=Join%20Together%20Daily&utm_campaign=126d3867bb-JT_Daily_News_Prescription_Painkiller&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_97f4d27738-126d3867bb-221306665


CASA National Survey Found Teens Cite Cigarettes and Marijuana As The Easiest Substances For Them To Buy

October 9, 2009

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s (CASA’s) National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents, 2009, found that teens are equally likely to say that cigarettes or marijuana are the easiest for them to buy.

Slightly more than one-fourth (26%) of teens said that cigarettes were the easiest for someone their age to buy and the same percentage cited marijuana. The third most prevalent response was prescription drugs (16%), followed by beer (14%). Ten percent of teens reported that they thought all four substances were equally easy to buy.

Click here to view the full survey results


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