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Prescription Drug Abuse – the New Epidemic

“The faster you know, the better you can deal with the situations that arise.”  For drug use identification, this quote by Premier Medical Laboratory Services, couldn’t be more accurate.  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is a rapidly escalating public health crisis.  In 2014, drug overdose deaths soared, and six of every ten overdoses were caused by narcotics, from prescription painkillers and heroin.  Opioids, OxyContin and Vicodin, are two of the chief culprits; both commonly prescribed narcotics for pain, and responsible for more overdoses than any other narcotic.  Patients that use these drugs suffer from chronic pain, have substance abuse problems, or are mentally ill.  It is imperative that physicians identify patients who abuse drugs, whether prescribed or illegally obtained.  Urine drug testing and drug monitoring programs provide critical information for attending physicians and pain specialists.

Prescription Drug Risks

Prescription drugs are highly available from physicians, the internet, or even the home medicine cabinet.  Pain killers are the number one drug taken for non-medical purposes, followed by tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives.

1.  Opioids

Opioids are effective pain relievers because they reduce pain signals from the nervous system to the brain.  There is an extremely high risk of addiction, and consequently overdose.  Opioids can be deadly when combined with alcohol or other drugs.

2.  Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants

CNS depressants relieve anxiety and sleeplessness by reducing brain activity bringing about a relaxing effect.  Widely used depressants include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tranquilizers, such as, Valium and Xanax
  • Barbiturates, such as, Nembutal and Seconal
  • Methaqualone or Quaaludes

CNS depressants are very addictive, both physically and psychologically.  Abusers need to increase dosages to realize the same effect, as the body develops tolerance for the drug.  Withdrawal symptoms for severe abusers can be deadly.  There is a high risk of overdose with CNS depressants, particularly when combined with alcohol, or other drugs.

3.  Stimulants

Stimulants are used to increase brain activity to enhance awareness, concentration, and energy.  Although nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants, amphetamines and methylphenidate are the two riskiest, abused stimulants.  Stimulants are extremely addictive and potentially lethal.  Consequences of abuse include raised body temperatures, seizures, and cardiovascular problems.

Prescription Drugs Availability

Testing is essential to establish an individual’s drug use.  Only 18.1% percent of prescription drugs are obtained from a single physician.  The statistical data on acquiring prescription drugs includes:

  • 54.2% – obtained free from relatives or friends
  • 16.6% – purchased from relatives or friends
  • 3.9% – bought illegally from a drug dealer
  • 1.9% – obtained from more than one doctor
  • 0.3% – bought online

Teenagers often get access to prescription drugs by raiding their parent’s medicine cabinet, or buying them online.  Prescription drugs are erroneously thought to be less dangerous than illegal drugs and have fewer side effects.

Drug Testing for Medical Reasons

Physicians have a variety of reasons for requesting a drug test on an individual.  The most common reasons are:

  • Drug related health problems
  • Intoxication symptoms, such as, nausea, delirium, unconsciousness, or seizures
  • Is known to use, or has been suspected, of using drugs
  • Is currently taking pain medication

Today’s advanced technology allows laboratories to analyze urine and oral specimens that can de?nitively confirm the presence of a wide selection of substances commonly abused.  Stimulants, tranquilizers, opiates and other consumptions can be specifically identified.  Premier Medical Laboratory, of Greenville, South Carolina provides the most comprehensive testing available, using state-of-the-art technology.  Physicians receive concise, one page, results, within 72 hours.

Limiting the number of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers lowers the potential of drug abuse and overdose.  “The faster you know, the better you can deal with the situations that arise.”

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