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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