An estimated 2.4 million Americans use prescription drugs in a non-medical situation for the first time each year.
When patients use their prescription medications differently than prescribed, they increase their chances for dependence. If a patient is taking higher doses, using different routines or combining drugs with alcohol and other drugs, they put themselves at even more risk.
Although prescription drug addiction affects many different types of Americans, there are a few groups of people who have the biggest hand in preventing addiction:
- Patients– If you have a prescription for painkillers, you’re the first line of defense against prescription drug addiction. You can take steps to prevent abuse and avoid becoming dependent. If your doctor suggests a prescription painkiller, you need to let him or her know about all of your current prescriptions, over the counter medications and herbal supplements. This will help your doctor pick the safest option for you.Once you’ve gotten your prescription, you need to follow the directions to a “T.” Avoid other drugs and alcohol, take your medicine as prescribed and stay on a schedule. Read all the documentation that you can on your prescription and ask your doctor questions.
- Physicians– Healthcare professionals can help prevent prescription drug addiction by prescribing medicine carefully and watching for abuse. Since more than 80 percent of Americans have contact with doctors each year, the doctors are in a unique position to spot abuse long before it becomes a major project.Physicians should ask about all the drugs a patient is taking – including other prescription painkillers – before prescribing anything. They can also look for signs of “doctor shopping,” moving from doctor to doctor. If there’s any doubt, the doctor’s office can call a pharmacy to ensure that a patient isn’t filling multiple prescriptions for the same drug.
- Pharmacists – Speaking of filling prescriptions, pharmacists can also be a line of defense against prescription drug addiction. Pharmacies have policies in place to screen for false prescriptions, prescription alterations and other forms of fraud. There are also prescription drug monitoring programs that create state-wide databases in 48 states to watch for suspicious prescription drug addiction activity.
With patient education and vigilance from medical professionals, prescription drug addiction can be curbed. In addition to these professionals, friends and family members who suspect prescription drug addiction can help their loved ones get the support they need move on from these painful addictions.