Prescription Drug Abuse Threatens Availability of Pain Medication

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 General News
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DENVER, April 8, 2008 Take a look in yourmedicine cabinet -- do you spot prescription pain medication? If so, are youcontributing to the nation's dramatic increase in irresponsible prescriptiondrug use? According to the 2008 National Drug Control Strategies Report, 71percent of prescription pain medication abusers obtained the drugs from familyand friends. Among 12- to 13-year-olds, prescription drug abuse actuallyexceeds marijuana use.

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Irresponsible use of prescription medications hurts more than those whomisuse the drugs. It hurts the nation's 75 million chronic pain patients whoare at risk of having much-needed medicines restricted or pulled off themarket. This will worsen an already difficult situation for pain patients,according to Dr. Albert Ray, chairman of The National Pain Foundation.

Prescription holders, themselves, are vulnerable to misuse, as evidencedby the recent death of actor Heath Ledger. His death was attributed to awidely held but erroneous belief that prescribed medicines are safe, even whenused for unintended purposes or outside a prescription's limits orinstructions.

"Chronic pain remains under-treated in this country," says Ray. "Everymorning millions of people wake up in pain, unable to work or just live theirlives. The social and economic costs for society and for people living in painare enormous."

But lawmakers' commitment to helping pain sufferers is hampered by whatseems to be a trade-off between allowing continued access to pain relief andpublic safety from drug abuse. With greater general awareness of theimportance of safe and appropriate use of prescription drugs, this need not bethe case.

The National Pain Foundation ( isramping up efforts to raise public awareness to curtail prescription drugabuse and thus ensure the continuing availability of pain medication. Themessage: Prescription drug abuse is preventable. Prescription drug holders andthe medical community have a responsibility to help curb irresponsible druguse. Steps consumers can take include:

Doctors and other members of the medical community can be especiallyeffective in preventing prescription drug abuse. About 180 million Americansage 18 or older consult their healthcare provider at least once a year. Thesevisits are valuable opportunities to educate patients and screen for drug andalcohol abuse.

"It's up to each of us to make sure that irresponsible use of prescribedpain medications does not make it harder for legitimate pain patients to haveaccess to drugs that can greatly improve their quality of life," says Ray.-- Never take a prescription pain medication unless it is prescribed to you. -- Lock up prescription pain medications to keep them out of other people's hands. -- Do not share prescription pain medications with others. -- Do not take higher or more frequent doses than prescribed. -- Do not take pain medication with alcohol, which can cause adverse side effects. -- Do not combine sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs with pain medication. This can increase toxicity. -- Do not use narcotic medications as sleeping pills; this can suppress breathing during sleep.

SOURCE National Pain Foundation

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