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Millions of Americans are prescribed prescription drugs on a daily basis, but for many it also leads to abuse and a dangerous addiction...

Prescription Drugs - Americas Biggest Drug Problem

America's problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction is not just a problem, but a certified epidemic. This epidemic is partially fueled by American's desire to obtain, and easy access to, powerful prescription drugs. A new study has found that 7 in 10 Americans take prescription medications each day. The big pharmaceutical companies are more than happy to oblige. In 2014 alone, pharmaceutical companies totaled more than $1 trillion in sales.

Because prescription drugs are legal, it doesn't mean they aren't extremely toxic and dangerous and it most certainly doesn't mean that users aren't at risk of developing dependence and addiction. It is estimated that 52 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes. This basically means they abuse medical drugs just as they would any other illicit drug. The prescription drugs most likely to be abused among Americans include anti-anxiety medications, stimulant medications and opioid-based pain relievers. The abuse of prescription pain killers is the number one prescription drug problem and drug problem overall, because more people are abusing powerful opioid narcotics in the U.S. than are abusing cocaine, heroin, stimulants and sedatives combined.

Abuse of anti-anxiety medications

Anti-anxiety medications, in the class of prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines, affect the central nervous system in a way which causes the user to experience a sedating and/or hypnotic effect. There are currently 15 such medications approved for use and readily available for Americans experiencing panic and anxiety disorders but can also be prescribed for convulsive disorders as well. While these medications may alleviate symptoms associated with stress and panic, they are also highly addictive. Dependence to these drugs develops very quickly, which is why most benzodiazepines are only meant for short term use. But after the recommended amount of time of treatment, most users are already physically and psychologically dependent. For example, someone starting daily treatment with the anti-anxiety medication Xanax can develop dependence after just a few weeks. If someone abruptly quits taking these types of medications abruptly, their bodies and brains don't have time to rebalance in the absence of these powerful chemicals. This is the cycle of dependence and addiction, even though these are considered legal and "safe" drugs.

When someone does start taking anti-anxiety medication at the suggestion and discretion of their trusted medical doctor, they may not realize what they are setting themselves up for. Users who get caught up in this trap will experience many of the same behavioral manifestations associated with any other type of drug abuse including drug seeking behavior, cravings, etc. and symptoms of withdrawal, dependence and addiction. To highlight this fact, prescriptions for benzodiazepines have more than tripled in the past 20 years. To mirror the impact of this significant rise in use among Americans, fatal overdoses involving for benzodiazepines have more than quadrupled. In 2013, over half of the drug overdose fatalities in the U.S. were caused by prescription drugs, 31% of which involved benzodiazepine medications. Emergency room visits involving benzodiazepines between 2005 and 2011 almost reached one million, and ER visits involving benzodiazepines between 1999 and 2009 increased nearly 90%.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants are a major concern, and part of the concern is that Americans don't understand how toxic and powerful these types of drugs are and the ramifications of non-medical abuse and addiction to them. Stimulants are exactly what their name infers, and they can cause a person to become more stimulated, alert and awake. Students commonly abuse stimulants to stay up late cramming for tests for example and a recent study confirmed that 20% of college students abuse stimulants for this purpose. Young American adults abuse the prescribed stimulants Adderall (60 percent), Ritalin (20 percent) and Vyvanse (14 percent) at the highest rates. Stimulants are easy to get, and in fact nearly 30% of young adults who have a prescription share their drugs with friends or sell it for profit. The problem is, prescription stimulants can be just as dangerous when abused as illegal stimulants like cocaine. Just as it can stimulate someone to stay awake and alert to study or work, it can also over-stimulate the heart and brain and cause irregular heartbeat, seizures and death.

The Prescription Opioid Problem

To highlight the epic proportions that prescription pain killers are abused, of the 7 million Americans who abused prescription drugs in 2011, over 5 million chose to abuse opium derived or synthetic opioid pharmaceutical drugs. In 2014, more Americans died of drug overdoses than ever before, and six out of ten of those deaths involved an opioid. Opioid overdose deaths statistics mirror the amount of prescription opioids sold to Americans over the past 2 decades, both of which have quadrupled. These are opioid drugs which are not being used for legitimate purposes such as pain, because there has not been a similar rise in rates of Americans reporting pain. Americans use and abuse 65% of the world's prescription pain killer hydromorphone (Dilaudid), 80% of the world's oxycodone (Percocet and Oxycontin) and an astounding 99% of the world's hydrocodone (Vicodin).

No matter what measures have been taken, the prescription opioid problem has only worsened, and has in fact spawned a new heroin epidemic in this country. Prescription opioids affect the brain the same way that heroin does. When someone who has become dependent and addicted can't get their prescription pain killer through legit means, it isn't uncommon to turn to heroin as a more accessible and even cheaper solution. A recent study of new heroin users found that approximately three out of four had abused prescription opioids non-medically before they ever abused heroin. Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled in the past few years, with 10,574 such deaths in 2014.

America's Biggest Problem

As you can clearly see Americans are up against a serious epidemic and prescription drug abuse and addiction will be one of the toughest challenges to overcome, when you consider how socially acceptable it is to abuse these drugs non-medically and what big pharmaceutical companies have to lose if Americans wise up. If you or someone you care about is abusing prescription drugs, contact a drug rehab program in your area that can help just as they would with any other type of drug addiction before it is too late.

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