According to the American College of Preventative Medicine, the Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs is Epidemic. The past two decades have witnessed an expansion of pain medication use, especially opioid use for patients who have chronic noncancer pain. 7 million people abuse/misuse prescription drugs every month; pain relievers = 5.3 million. We live in “a pill for every ill” culture. Nonmedical use of Prescription drugs is the defining drug problem of the new century.
The increase in diversion of prescription drugs is fueled by:
- Increased advertising and advocacy
- Easy access and availability
- Stronger motivations to get high (such as to deal with problems, or work harder and longer)
- Safety perception that prescription drugs are less harmful than illicit street drugs
- Normalization of abuse of prescription drugs in teen culture
- Limited liability
- Lack of education
- High street value
Pain Pill Patients
Opioids are the most abused drugs in the chronic pain setting. The prevalence of lifetime substance use disorders ranges from 36% to 56% in patients treated with opioids for chronic back pain. Adequate pain control is a fundamental right of every patient and the consequences of not treating pain are significant. However, physicians are challenged to deal with the “perfect storm”—a confluence of pain control versus risk of abuse and misuse of prescription medications, and combined use of prescription with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The problem cannot be ignored because abusers face significant complications, including:
- Addiction and dependence
- Adverse effects
- Drug interactions
- Economic, family, and social dysfunction
- Legal consequences
The economic figures are startling. Close to half a trillion U.S. dollars are spent on expenses associated with medical, economic, social, and the criminal impact caused by the use and abuse of addictive substances.
In 2002, abuse of prescription drugs costs were nearly $181 billion; a significant amount of these dollars were attributed to opioid abuse. Direct health care costs for opioid abusers = $15,884 compared with $1,830 for nonabusers.
Pain Pill Addiction Treatment
Reference: American College of Preventative Medicine