Heroin dependence is on the rise. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 4.2 million Americans are hooked on heroin. Why have so many people turned to heroin? It’s a complex social, health, and personal issue. Many feel that the increase in opioid prescriptions is at least partially to blame.
Prescription Drug Deaths on The Rise
Sadly, the number of people who die from an overdose of prescription drugs is also on the rise. Between 1999 and 2010, the number of people who died from a prescription drug overdose has quadrupled. In fact, more people now die from a prescription drug overdose than from heroin or cocaine use.
Are doctors part of the reason that our nation has experienced such a rapid rise of drug addiction? It’s possible. Americans account for 99% of the hydrocodone market. Hydrocodone is a powerful prescription pain killer that often causes its users to become addicted even if they took it only as prescribed. This is extremely concerning given that the number of people in the U.S. only accounts for about 5% of the world’s total population.
In 2015, more than 300 million prescriptions for pain medication were written by doctors. In most countries, the use opioid prescriptions are extremely limited. They are used only when patients are hospitalized and victims of extreme trauma. Yet, doctors in the United States routinely give out these prescriptions in general office visits.
The most common age group addicted to prescription drugs are those in the later years of their life. Chronic pain and multiple health conditions often require patients to take several medications each day; at least one of which may be a prescription for pain, anxiety, or depression. However, the worsening of memory as a person ages may also result in elderly patients misusing medication on accident.
Doctors Get Addicted Too
Patients aren’t the only ones that we have to worry about getting addicted to prescription medications. It is believed that around 15% of doctors are addicted to drugs. Around 1/6 of the doctors addicted to drugs leave their medical practice. In 2013, the Journal of Addiction Medicine released a study that shocked its readers: 69% of doctors abused prescription drugs to lessen the pain and feelings of stress they developed from working in the medical industry.
Doctors and nurses who abuse drugs put patients at risk. Serious medical mistakes are made. Patients get exposed to infectious disease. Because most states have few laws that require mandated reporting by medical facilities if they believe a medical professional is abusing drugs, the problem often continues until it is too late. Doctors don’t automatically lose their license. It’s a dangerous combination that affects the safety of patients and the public.
Drug Addiction Risks Must Be Known
Sadly, many patients do not truly understand the risks associated with taking prescriptions or using illegal drugs like heroin. The same is true for doctors despite their years of specialized training. Often, the manufacturers of prescription medications minimize the risks when they contact medical professionals to discuss and promote the use of their product. This can lead to negative ramifications for patients and doctors.