They seem safe enough – after all the doctor prescribed them. Yet, according to a new study in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, legal drugs such as OxyContin now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
The CDC has now classified the situation as an epidemic, perhaps due in part to the fact that prescription drug use has been found to increase in direct proportion to psychological states such as anxiety, and use of other restricted substances such as alcohol (Netemeyer et al., 2014). Moreover, in research conducted with Scot Burton of the University of Arkansas, Barbara Delaney of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, and Gina Hijjawi of the American Institutes for Research, prescription drug abuse was found to accelerate exponentially under specific conditions, such as when the level of anxiety or desire to be popular was at its very highest (Netemeyer et al., 2014).
“Prescription drugs are seen as blessed by a trusted institution, the FDA, while increasingly aggressive advertising by drug companies simultaneously floods parents and children with messages that these substances are safe, popular, and beneficial,” notes Richard Netemeyer of the University of Virginia (Netemeyer, 2014).
Another study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that 70 percent of Americans are on some form of prescription drug. The second most common prescription was for antidepressants, and the third most common drugs were opioids. Further, in just 2009 alone, spending on prescription drugs accounted for 12 percent of total personal health care expenditures (Sauver et al., 2016).
The problem is also not exclusive to the United States. Investigating nonmedical prescription drug use in five European countries – Denmark, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK, a research team led by scientists at RTI International in the US examined three different classes of subscription drug – opioids, sedatives, and stimulants.
Defining nonmedical prescription drug use as either the self-treatment of a medical condition using prescription medication that was not prescribed to the user, or as the use of prescription medication to achieve euphoric states, the researchers found that the most common sources of prescription drugs for nonmedical use were family and friends – 44% for opioids and 62% for sedatives. The next most common source was taking drugs from another person without their knowledge.
Nonmedical prescription drug use was also more common among men than women, among white than non-white people, and among those who were unemployed than those with other levels of employment. Young people aged 12 to 17 years were at lower risk of nonmedical prescription drug use than people aged 18 years or older. Of the five countries examined, Germany had the lowest levels of nonmedical prescription drug use, while the UK, Spain and Sweden had the highest levels (Novak et al., 2016).
Dr. Scott Novak, who led the study, concluded, “Previously it was thought that the prescription drug epidemic was limited to the United States, but this study shows that the epidemic extends well beyond the US” (Novak, 2016).
Combatting the epidemic begins with understanding what drives it, what diagnoses are related to it, the significant warning signs, and the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment that is effective against it.
By Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Prescription Drug Abuse is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the misuse of prescription drugs (including opioids) in the United States. Misuse of prescription drugs means “taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria” and is a serious public health problem in the United States. When taken as prescribed, medication can be of great benefit to a patient, helping reduce pain, save lives, and improve one’s overall quality of life. However, when individuals misuse their prescribed medications or take medications not prescribed to them, the consequences can be disastrous. Illicit drug use, including the misuse of prescription medications, affects the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Among other deleterious effects, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug use. The important thing to remember is that the medications are not inherently bad in and of themselves – it is how people use (and abuse) them that creates a problem. This course will discuss what drives people to abuse prescription drugs and how they obtain them; diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder; history and progression of prescription drug abuse, including types and classes of drugs used; and the cost of prescription drug abuse on addicts and non-addicts alike. The course will then review the sequence of treating individuals who have a prescription drug use disorder, including screening, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance. Screening tools, assessment instruments, treatment programs, and evidence-based recommendations are included. Comorbidity between substance use disorder and mental disorders is also discussed. Course 31-00 | 2018 | 50 pages | 20 posttest questions
Anxiety: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a collection of ready-to-use anxiety management tools. Nearly every client who walks through a health professional’s door is experiencing some form of anxiety. Even if they are not seeking treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, they are likely experiencing anxiety as a side effect of other clinical issues. For this reason, a solid knowledge of anxiety management skills should be a basic component of every therapist’s repertoire. Clinicians who can teach practical anxiety management techniques have tools that can be used in nearly all clinical settings and client diagnoses. Anxiety management benefits the clinician as well, helping to maintain energy, focus, and inner peace both during and between sessions. Course #40-12 | 2007 | 41 pages | 30 posttest questions
Medical Marijuana is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that presents a summary of the current literature on the various medical, legal, educational, occupational, and ethical aspects of marijuana. In spite of the fact that nearly half of the states in this country have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana in some fashion, the reality is that neither the intended “medical” benefits of marijuana nor its known (and as yet unknown) adverse effects have been adequately examined using controlled studies. Conclusive literature remains sparse, and opinion remains divided and contentious. This course will address the major questions about marijuana that are as yet unanswered by scientific evidence. What are the known medical uses for marijuana? What is the legal status of marijuana in state and federal legislation? What are the interactions with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavior? Is marijuana addictive? Is marijuana a gateway drug? What are the adverse consequences of marijuana use? Do state medical marijuana laws increase the use of marijuana and other drugs? The course will conclude with a list of implications for healthcare and mental health practitioners. Course #30-86 | 2016 | 55 pages | 24 posttest questions
These online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers