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Why the Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse

Posted on :  October 14th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Prescription drug abuse has become quite the epidemic in Canada, particularly among young people. Just last year, CBC News reported a significant rise in prescription drug abuse in Hamilton. In fact, it has become the city’s biggest drug problem. Meanwhile, in Sault Ste. Marie, prescription opioid abuse has risen 188 percent since 2006 according to The Sault Star. So, why the rise in prescription drug abuse?

The ease and availability of drugs

Compared to illicit street drugs, prescription drugs are relatively easy to obtain and are widely available, which leads to more abuse. Just think about a typical family’s medicine cabinet. It is likely filled with a variety of unused medications just waiting to fall into the wrong hands.

Aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies also leads to an increase in the availability of drugs. Both supply and demand go up, eventually flooding the market place with painkillers, opioids and other addictive prescription drugs.

In other cases, a simple click of the mouse can buy a variety of drugs over the Internet, leading to the potential for abuse.

Finally, some physicians are in the habit of overprescribing medications. In this day and age of modern medicine, many of us are accustomed to popping a pill for every ailment. We automatically expect a prescription, and many physicians willingly oblige. In some cases, this leads to accidental addiction. What starts out as a legitimate prescription ends up as a habit, and then an addiction.

Perceived safety plus insufficient warnings

Prescription drug abuse is also on the rise due to misconceptions around their safety, as well as insufficient warnings of their addictive effects.

Most people equate prescription medication with safety, which they should — to a degree. Such drugs have undergone a great deal of research and testing before release. Add that to a physician’s recommendation, and it all appears to be safe. It is this perceived safety that can lead to abuse. Those taking the drugs as prescribed don’t anticipate addictive side effects, and those experimenting with the drugs to get high assume they are safer because they are “clinical.”

Sadly, insufficient warnings on prescription medications can also result in greater abuse. For example, Percocet is commonly prescribed to relieve pain, but how many physicians and pharmacists emphasize its addictive side effects? Also, how many patients are likely to research or heed the warnings?

Lack of social stigma

The rising abuse of prescription drugs can also be attributed to a lack of social stigma around pharmaceutical medications. Illicit street drugs like heroin and crack are often conjure images of dark alleyways and shady parts of town, riddled with criminals and other unsavory characters.

Prescription drugs, in contrast, aren’t viewed as “street drugs” per se. They are not as readily associated with drug dealers and unlawful behavior. In most cases, prescription drugs are obtained through friends, family or other means. Rarely are they purchased off the street like narcotics, so they lose that stigma of being illegal substances.

The wide availability of pharmaceuticals also lessens the social stigma. After all, everyone has some form of prescription medication at home. It’s ubiquitous and commonplace, which makes it difficult to stigmatize. Our society simply accepts prescription drugs as part of daily life, which makes it harder to understand their abuse.

In addition, it’s quite easy to pop a pill under the guise of “not feeling well” or “experiencing some pain,” even though it may be far from the truth. Doing so would hardly have anyone batting an eye, whereas saying the same thing and smoking or injecting heroin would be considered a shocking disgrace.

Whether prescription drug abuse continues to rise, remains to be seen. However, the widespread availability of drugs, misconceptions about their safety and lack of severe warnings, suggests little will change. Social acceptance, as well as ignorance, around this issue, adds to the problem.

Only continued education and awareness about prescription drug abuse can help battle this ever-increasing problem.

If you’d like to learn more about prescription drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.
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