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The Growing Problem of Prescription Drug Abuse

Participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, April 30, 2011.

Like all addictions, prescription drug abuse is a chronic medical disease of the brain, and as we have heard recently from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and various other organizations, it is also the "fastest growing" drug problem in the US today, particularly among teens! According to the DEA's Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, from 2001 to 2005, unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription opioids increased 114%, and "one-third of all new abusers of prescription drugs in 2006 were 12 to 17 year-olds." I think it's important for us all to pay close attention to what we can do in our own homes to stop perpetuating these statistics.

I believe that unrestricted access to medications is a big reason for this problem - leftover medications in home medicine cabinets can be a silent danger right under your own roof. During many years of experience, I have seen one too many scenarios of people misusing leftover prescription drugs in their homes, leading them or a family member deep into addiction or perhaps worsening an already existing problem with substance abuse. There are parents taking their children's medications, children taking their parent's medications, and everyone taking grandma and grandpa's meds. Unfortunately, people erroneously believe that prescription medications are safe because a doctor prescribed them and the FDA approved them. This, however, is grossly inaccurate. I cannot express clearly enough that prescription drugs are dangerous when not used properly and some are potentially addictive and life-threatening.

Treatment for prescription drug abuse should be science-based, comprehensive and include anti-addiction medications like Vivitrol and Suboxone. I use this treatment model because it works and it is the most effective way to fight addiction. Furthermore, it is critical that we all dispose of our unused prescription medications properly either by participating in a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, or safely disposing of them when finished, and/or when they have expired, by following these FDA guidelines….

During the first ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, September 25, 2010, more than 121 tons of unused prescription drugs were collected. You can visit this website that the DEA has established to find a "Take-Back" location in your area - This is as good a time as any to clean out our medicine cabinets!


Dr. Urschel

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