The efforts from those in the medical field and prescription drug industry have successfully resulted in dangerous narcotics and other addictive drugs becoming more difficult to obtain. Although those efforts have resulted in fewer people becoming addicted to prescription drugs, it has not lowered the overall number of people who abuse drugs and alcohol. The unfortunate consequence? A rise in the number of people addicted to illicit street drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine.
Adjusting the Formula
Although physicians still rely heavily on prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Xanax to relieve painful and uncomfortable symptoms, their addictive qualities have created the fastest growing abuse epidemic in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana abuse in terms of the number of people getting high. Manufacturers sidestepped the problem by creating new formulas that offer a time-release feature — making a drug more difficult to abuse — but people often modify the drug to create a faster high.
A Nationwide Trend
People addicted to prescription drugs often start by abusing medicines they were given by a physician for legitimate reasons, such as chronic pain or anxiety. As abuse grows into dependence and finally, addiction, these same victims resort to increasingly desperate measures to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal. Trapped by miserable physical symptoms, frantic for relief, and running short on money, heroin and crystal meth become realistic options. From Baltimore to Michigan and beyond, police and addiction professionals have concluded that prescription pill scarcity leads to a rise in illicit drug use, according to the Washington Post, as well as a rise in the number of people enrolling in prescription drug addiction rehab programs.
The crackdown on prescription drug abuse led to skyrocketing prices — prices that many people addicted to drugs cannot or will not pay. One woman, formerly addicted to OxyContin and roxicodone, switched to heroin after she could no longer afford the $80 per pill cost; however, the financial toll of addiction was still too much, and she eventually lost her family business due to her substance abuse problem. She is now taking suboxone, an opiate addiction pharmacological therapy.
Another victim of abuse, a suburban wife and mother who held a teaching job at a respected DC-area school, fell apart after the end of her marriage and began abusing prescription drugs. She lost her job, her home, and her children after her boyfriend’s arrest; she now faces serious legal charges and will undergo prescription drug rehab treatment.
Photo: Chris Gehlen