The GBI reported that prescription drug deaths jumped 10% in 2010 and the Centers for Disease Control is calling prescription drug overdose deaths an epidemic (recently report in GA Public Broadcasting News). If this substance abuse has not affected you, your family or people you associate with, just wait. It could be that you are not aware of the problem which lurks so close to your home.
The prescription drug problem is additive to the illegal drug market which has been both condemned and glamorized. Drugs (and alcohol) are a daily crutch for many of us whether we meet the criteria for abuse and dependence or not. Too many of us turn our heads to these problems which are so prevalent at home and on the job. Crime and abuse are frequently connected to people who are abusing some type of illegal or legal substance. Also many of those who are diagnosed with mental illness tend to abuse substances for self medication or, in many instances; the substance is the root cause of the mental disorder, including psychosis.
By January of 2014 Georgia state law requires an online narcotic database that can be used by doctors and pharmacist to track patients who may be abusing prescription medications. This is a step in the right direction and an early benefit of the new health information technology infrastructure that is providing some valuable services across the state. It will also help track providers who may be overprescribing narcotics for inappropriate use. However, we must also realize that prescription narcotics are sold on the street so there is a system outside of the health system which is difficult to control but the database is certainly a good start.
There is a cycle of drug usage, criminal activity and death that is linked to the American appetite for illegal drugs and the misuse of prescription drugs. You have heard the old adage that if there were no drug users there would be no drug dealers. This plays out into many speculations and philosophies about the cause and effect of the activities of the drug market. I don’t think we will ever figure this out or agree on the orgin, but I do think the clean up begins with the drug abuser. Prevention and treatment of substance abuse is principal in the health of this nation. Substance abuse can result in many ailments, and disabilities; and finally death. It also leads to an unhealthy job market because of the disability and the under-productivity of the user.
Substance abuse affects our mental health and mental illness and is such a big issue that the health system has traditionally had problems grasping and dealing with its complexity. As with many things, the cure can start at home. Substance abuse usually begins in the home or neighborhood and unfortunately sometimes under the doctor’s care. Heighten prevention and awareness is important among the medical community and general public to help those close to us in need.