Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise
Does a simple prescription always make pain killers appropriate? Not necessarily. It has come to the attention of the medical community, and dentists in particular, that people are abusing easy access to prescription pain medications for recreational purposes. Pain killing drugs are a commonly used means of getting high, and are available legally and readily. While this revelation is not a surprise to many, the details of how and from where the drugs are obtained might be. It has become common practice for addicts and thrill seekers to open the phone book, and start in the A's of the dentist entries. They then work their way down the list of local dentists until they find one that will prescribe them the drug they want.
An estimated seven million Americans use prescription drugs recreationally.
And they're doing this without ever having to make an appointment with the dentist. Apparently, dentists are too often willing to prescribe pain medication to patients whom they have never met, let alone examined. One California man, Kenny Morrison, recounts his own story of addiction to pain killers: "At the height, I was taking probably 20, 25 a day," he says. "It got to the point where I lost the wife, the house, and I was living in a bad part of L.A. in my truck. And I went from taking a couple of codeine all the way to taking OxyContin I kind of found out on my own that a dentist will prescribe you painkillers over the phone, instead of a doctor who you would most likely have to go in and see," Morrison remembers. As the dentists are catching onto the practice, they are noting some patterns in the behavior of these callers:
- The caller phones toward the end of the day.
- He or she describes pain in their mouth, and is insistent that they need the pain killers quickly.
- When asked how many pills are needed, the callers give answers that range in the 40s and 50s.
- A caller will generally hang up when the dentist asks too many specific questions.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that seven million Americans use prescription drugs recreationally. This number nearly doubles the 2000 statistic, which put pain killer addiction at just under four million. A large part of the problem is that the people using the pain killers in this way often justify their habit with the prescription, despite the fact that the prescriptions are practically bogus. Having that piece of paper legitimizes the usage, both to themselves and for family and friends. The DEA is taking steps to root out dentists who over-prescribe pain medications. Additionally, 38 states are looking to develop databases to assist the medical community in preventing multiple prescriptions. Fortunately, Kenny Morrison has been able to kick his addiction to pain killers, and is now working as a head chef while continuing to improve his personal life. He is a full supporter of organized efforts to stop the abuse of pain killing drugs, and stands as a positive example to those trapped in the cycle.