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Preventing Prescription Medicine Abuse

September 24, 2014

by Sheila Nickell

When we hear the word addiction, we typically think of alcohol, cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. However, none of these—or even several of them combined—are anywhere near the most significant substance abuse challenge we face in Tennessee: prescription drugs.

The most prevalent addiction problem in our state is abuse of prescription opioids—pain relievers. In the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report, Tennessee, along with two other southern states, has the highest rates of prescriptions for these medications written per person. This appears to be taking a toll.

According to recently released numbers from the Tennessee Substance Abuse Data Task Force, treatment admissions for abuse of prescription drugs have increased 500 percent in the last decade. And, the number of admissions for opioid abuse has exceeded admissions for alcohol abuse.

As a Centerstone alcohol and drug interventionist in Middle Tennessee, prescription drug abuse is the number one reason people call me for help.

The effects of these drugs are often underestimated since they are legal and perceived as safe when prescribed by a physician, but they can be extremely dangerous. Because of this contradiction, the need for education—along with prevention and intervention—is paramount.

It should be understood that prescription opioids have highly addictive qualities and can be as life-threatening as heroin and methamphetamine. In fact, prescription opioid overdose is now the second-leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing more people than heroin and cocaine combined.

When visiting any doctor, people must take control of their health and treatment options. It’s so important to be an active participant in your treatment plan and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to have an open conversation about side-effects and talk with your doctor about the addictive nature of medications, particularly prescription painkillers.

You also can ask for other suggestions for treatment, in addition to medication. For example, are there things like exercise, relaxation techniques or a new diet that could help supplement your treatment or substitute the use of painkillers? You don’t know unless you ask.

It is estimated that nearly 24 million Americans use some form of illicit drugs during any given month, and this number continues to grow. Addiction does not discriminate based on age, sex, wealth, location or any other status. It affects every sector of society, and some of these 24 million users are our family, friends and neighbors.

There is help available. You are not alone. If you suspect you or a loved one is battling addiction, I encourage you to take the first step toward recovery and seek support.

Centerstone substance abuse and intervention services experts can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-681-7444.

Sheila Nickell provides intervention services for addiction disorders at Centerstone. She can be reached at 615-714-9240 or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)