Prescription drug use on the rise

Prescription drug use on the rise

Photo Credit: Viridiana Rivera

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April 25, 2012 • Viridiana Rivera, Staff Writer  
Filed under Health and Fitness

People experiment with drugs for many different reasons. Many first try them out of curiosity, to have a good time, because their friends are doing it, in an effort to improve athletic performance, or ease another problem such as anxiety, depression, or stress. Use does not automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level as which drug use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, but more about the consequences of drug use. No matter how often or how little you are consuming, if your drug use is causing problems in your life – work, home, school, or relationships – you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.

Prescription drugs are the second most commonly abused category of drugs, behind marijuana and ahead of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs. The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons.Some prescription drugs can become addictive, especially when they are used in a manner inconsistent with their labeling or for reasons they were not prescribed. Those include narcotic painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin, sedatives and tranquilizers like Xanax or Valium, and stimulants like Dexedrine, Adderall or Ritalin.

Steroid abuse is also on the rise. Steroids are prescription drugs that are legally prescribed to treat a variety of medical conditions that cause loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS. Men consistently report higher rates of steroid use than women. In 2008, 2.5 percent of 12th grade males, versus 0.6 percent of 12th grade females, reported taking the drugs in the past year.

In 2000, about 43 percent of hospital emergency admissions for drug overdoses (nearly 500,000 people) happened because of misused prescription drugs. This type of drug abuse is increasing partially because of the availability of drugs, including online pharmacies that make it easier to get the drugs without a prescription, even for minors. Prescription drug abuse is generally the same between men and women, except among 12 to 17 year olds. In this age group, research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that females are more likely to use psychotherapeutic drugs for nonmedical purposes. Research has also shown that women in general are more likely to use narcotic pain relievers and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes.

If you’re worried about your own, a friend, or family member’s drug use, it is important to know that help is available. Learning about the nature of drug abuse and addiction – how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold – will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.

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