Do you often turn to outside sources including drugs and alcohol in order to unwind, kick back, and let the stress of the day just fall away? If so, you’re not alone. About 19 percent of Americans said that they addressed the need to relax by turning to a drug of some sort almost every day, according to the results of a Gallup survey reported by NBC News. The more than 176,000 American adults surveyed were asked how often they used any kind of drug – including prescription drugs prescribed to them or others – to help them relax.
The rate of drug use for the purposes of relaxation varied widely by state, according to the survey. The states with the highest numbers of residents reporting drug use in order to relax included:
- West Virginia: 28 percent
- Rhode Island: 26 percent
- Kentucky: 24.5 percent
- Alabama: 24.2 percent
- Louisiana: 22.9 percent
- South Carolina: 22.8 percent
- Mississippi, Indiana, and Missouri: 24.2 percent
- Oregon: 21.9 percent
Prescription Drug Abuse
People who are seeking to alter their mood often abuse opiates painkillers. A recent review of studies published in the journal Pain found that about 25 percent of the opioids that were prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain were not used for that purpose or according to physicians’ directions. Rates of misuse ranged between 21 and 29 percent in the studies reviewed, with an average rate of addictive use of opiate painkillers between 8 and 12 percent.
In these studies, “abuse” was defined as the use of any prescription medication for the purposes of altering one’s mental state or getting high. “Addiction” was defined by the experience of cravings as well as continued use of opiate painkillers despite the harmful consequences this use caused, according to HealthDay.
Kevin Vowles at the University of New Mexico was the lead author of the study. He suggests that the findings of the review call into question the use of opiate drugs for the treatment of chronic pain. In a journal news release, Vowles and his colleagues said: “If it is accurate that approximately one in four patients on opioids display patterns of opioid misuse, but not addiction, then perhaps more efficient targeting of treatment resources would be of benefit. Even low-intensity interventions, such as patient education and monitoring, might be a viable alternative to simply not prescribing the medications for those at risk of misuse.”
Combatting Prescription Drug Abuse While Continuing to Treat Pain
Because the abuse of painkillers is such a chronic problem in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) among other regulating agencies have taken action and implemented a range of different changes in order to increase the education of patients and prescribing physicians as well as increase the restrictions so that those who are struggling with painkiller abuse can be identified and provided with treatment.
Specifically, the FDA recently issued guidelines to pharmaceutical companies who make tamper-resistant versions of extended-release opiate painkillers designed to treat chronic pain around the clock. Because addicts may be likely to crush these drugs in order to get multiple doses at once, they have long been the target of abuse. The FDA’s guidelines seek to decrease this possibility by recommending the types of studies that can and should be done on these medications in order to ensure that they are indeed tamper-resistant, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Douglas Throckmorton is the Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation. He said: “We hope that this guidance is going to provide an incentive for real abuse-deterrent products. We hope the industry will find that this guidance lays out a road map.”
Though these new versions of painkillers are not abuse-proof, the goal is to create one more deterrent to painkiller abuse. Similarly, the implementation of statewide drug databases that may help to identify patients who are filling the same prescription at multiple pharmacies or seeking narcotic prescriptions from multiple doctors are part of the plan to limit the abuse of addictive medications.
When Painkiller Abuse Turns Into Addiction
Regular and frequent abuse of painkillers for any purpose other than treatment of chronic pain – and even then – can lead to an addiction to these deadly drugs. Overdose is always a concern, especially if use of other substances, including alcohol, is an issue, and accident under the influence is a risk, as well.
Unfortunately, addiction to these and any substance is defined by an inability to stop using the drugs to get high, no matter how clear it is that it’s a behavior that is causing great harm. Treatment is the best option and can provide patients with everything they need to quit taking painkillers immediately and learn more positive ways to relax and enjoy themselves – without risking their lives in the process.