The prescription addiction epidemic would have probably occurred independently of the economy but it certainly doesn’t help that people are spiraling into despair and being prescribed dangerous addictive drugs.
Prescription drug abuse has likely been a problem in the United States since the first prescription opiate was regulated in 1914. However this problem has reached epidemic levels as we have reached the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Losing one’s job is stressful enough, but often losing one’s job is just the beginning of the pain. As many are unable to find new employment, the unemployment checks are not enough to cover a mortgage – so the house goes too. Finally, hardworking Americans are being forced to live with family, or worse yet – end up on the street.
Doctor Shopping For Unethical Providers
This economical downturn has caused the kind of stress that has caused many to turn to prescription drugs to deal with the anxiety and depression. Many of these drugs are habit forming, and many people have resorted to seeking “pain doctors” whose work can be considered legalized drug dealing.
Some people start out by getting injured innocently take the habit-forming drugs (like Vicodin) to manage their pain. It is easy to become hooked because of the double benefit of physical and psychological pain relief. OxyContin abuse alone has increased more than 300 percent in some states during the recession.
Before you say, “Well that doesn’t affect me,” data shows that prescription drug abuse costs more than 70 billion dollars a year! Lost productivity alone contributes to half that sum. This prescription drug abuse causes an increase in health insurance rates for all, and an increase in non-covered individuals getting healthcare for no-cost from local ERs.
Suggestions for Dealing with the “Sleeping Epidemic” of Prescription Drug Addiction
So, what do we do about it? Well we can start by taking a few steps:
- Educate the public on the very real dangers of becoming addicted to opiate medications.
- Better regulate these types of drugs so that doctors cannot prescribe them for certain ailments or more than a certain amount per patient per month or year.
- Better monitor patients for signs of drug addiction.
And finally, if we remove the stigma associated with chemical dependency, more people will reach out for help before it gets too out of control.