America’s fatal “legal drug” problem

Eddie Bernice Johnson

Prescription drug abuse has become a major public health issue in our country. According to Trust for America, a Washington , D.C. based research organization, deaths in America related to drug abuse are greater than those that result from the use of illegal substances such as heroin and cocaine combined.

The abuse of prescription drugs results in a loss of $53 billion annually in medical costs, lost productivity and criminal justice costs, according to a report by Trust for America. The highly-regarded group states that only one of ten Americans with a drug abuse problem receives any type of treatment for their illness.

Deaths from the use of prescribed drugs have risen significantly during the past twenty years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of these deaths were the result of the misuse of substances that were prescribed by licensed health professionals.

Males were 60 percent more likely to die from the use of prescription drugs than women, according to data from the CDC. People between the ages of 45 and 50 experienced a higher death rate than any other age group, the data stated. In one of its reports, the agency states that in 2012, 53 percent of all drug overdose deaths in our country were caused by drugs that were prescribed legally.

A major problem, according to many health officials, is the over-prescription and use of painkillers that contain potentially addictive narcotics. A growing number of medical experts believe that such pain killers should not be available to patients because of their potential for abuse.

Officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Dallas describe the abuse of prescription drugs as a “major concern.” The federal officials are alarmed at the increase in the number of deaths caused by prescription drugs.

Throughout our state and our country, health care experts and patient advocate groups have demanded that doctors become more vigilant in prescribing pain relievers, suggesting that they not prescribe potentially addictive medications.

States such as Texas have gotten involved in the battle against addictive drugs and their overuse. The state has an online drug monitoring program that allows doctors and pharmacists to view the drug histories of their patients. The program has helped to curve some abuse.

Many of us know people who are taking prescription drugs that are potentially addictive. In our homes and in our neighborhoods we must increase awareness regarding the harm that can be caused by the improper use of these substances. We owe this much to those that are close to us, and to others who are members of our larger communities.