Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

August 15, 2016

In recent years prescription drug abuse has reached near epidemic proportions in the US. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 3 percent of the U.S population engaged in non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs in 2006. Recent studies show that these numbers are rising steadily every year.The term “psychotherapeutic drug” is applied to medicines traditionally used in medical treatment to alter a patient’s mood or state of mind. Drugs that fall into this category include pain relievers, depressants, and stimulants, among others. Such medicines are typically prescribed for conditions ranging from physical pain to mental or emotional distress. When used correctly, psychotherapeutic drugs are very effective in reducing pain and discomfort that a patient might not be able to endure on their own. The problem arises when such drugs are used incorrectly.In 2008 testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Leonard J. Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that more than 22,000 American lives are lost each year due to accidental drug overdoses, and that unintentional overdose deaths are statistically related to the increasing use of prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers.

This point was underscored by Andrew Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. “Prescribing practices have changed to the point where physicians are much more liberal, largely through pharmaceutical marketing. We’ve trained a whole generation of physicians to believe that if you prescribe opiates to patients who have legitimate pain that there’s little or no risk of addiction or misuse.”Easy access to prescription drugs from legitimate physicians is just one of the issues. Illegal prescribing by unscrupulous physicians, and illegal distribution by unscrupulous pharmacies, is also on the rise. Prescription drug abusers are often able to obtain whatever prescription they want if they are willing to pay the price, and some pharmacists have gained a reputation of filling such prescriptions without question.With the advent of online pharmacies a prescription is often not needed. According to a 2009 study by OpSec Security, a firm monitoring pharmaceutical counterfeiting, the availability of online pharmacies that do not require a prescription has risen 65% in the last two years. While highly controlled substances are generally not available online, many of the drugs that are available are very dangerous when taken in high doses or in combination with other drugs.Perhaps one of the most alarming facts concerning prescription drug abuse is the frequency of use among high school age children. According once again to NIDA, almost ten percent of high school seniors were taking the powerful opiate Vicodin, and more than five percent were taking the highly addictive opiate OxyContin. Given the well known statistic that early drug use greatly increases the likelihood of developing a pathological dependence later in life, we can begin to understand why addiction is increasing at such alarming rates in young adults.One often overlooked aspect of prescription drug abuse is its link to illegal drug use. Prescription drug abuse is still generally looked upon as being something separate and above the use of common street drugs. But prescription drugs tend to be more expensive than their street counterparts, and as drug users become more and more tolerant they tend to drift toward the use of cheaper and more easily available substitutes.

One persistent problem with prescription drug abuse is the difficulty many medical practitioners have in recognizing the problem in their patients. Generalists tend to focus on the presenting problems of their patients and often overlook hidden or suppressed difficulties. Specialists are reluctant to offer an opinion outside the scope of their specialty. Substance abuse problems may go unrecognized for years until a crisis brings the issue to the forefront. Unfortunately this crisis may often take the form of an overdose or other life-threatening episode that might have been avoided by earlier detection.Prescription drug abuse is no longer the invisible problem it was just a few years ago. Due in part to the studies mentioned above and in part to the recent highly publicized and deeply tragic prescription drug related deaths of several well known celebrities, prescription drug abuse is now recognized as one of the more serious health problems we are facing. The more awareness that we give to the problem, the better our chances of helping those in need, and the better our chances of avoiding the loss of life through misuse of drugs that were intended to heal.

Herbal Medicines Vs Prescription Drugs

August 14, 2016

I cannot possibly remember my first contact with herbal remedies but I’m sure it must have been through my Grandmother. She was a pioneer spirit, tough enough to kill a hog to feed her family for the winter. She was amazing and I seem to remember sassafras tea and fresh yellowroot tea from my childhood.Grandma passed on long ago so I can’t ask but I know she loved her garden and had one of the most prolific gardens I’ve seen.My conscious use of herbal remedies came a lot later but from the very first exposure to them, I knew this was the way my body wanted to be balanced and healed. Prescription drugs always felt out of balance with my personal energy field so, even though I have resorted to them in acute situations, I have remained almost completely reliant on natural remedies for my health, for decades.In deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, natural healing surfaced as a primary passion so I began to study herbology and all things natural, including homeopathy, nutritional therapy, and alternative healing.On that path of purpose, I learned about the differences between herbal remedies and prescription drugs.I learned that a lot of prescription drugs originated from medicinal plants but that, typically, a single component of the natural herb was extracted. Nature has a wisdom that we really can’t improve on, though we keep trying. The extraction of one component from a synergistic whoe, changes that component. Not all those changes are positive.Another difference between using natural remedies and relying on prescription drugs is the time it takes for each to produce a noticeable effect in the body. Though some natural remedies, such as those for heartburn or headache, can actually work faster than their prescription drug counterparts, typically (and especially in cases of chronic health conditions developed over time, there is a difference in the time it takes for an herbal remedy to work, as opposed to a prescription drug for the same condition.

Because herbals are not concentrated extracts or chemically designed replicas of one component from a synergistic whole, they take longer to work but also work better, more in alignment with true healing.Herbals are designed to assist the body in rebuilding and balancing itself and that takes time. Prescription drugs, on the other hand and mostly, are concerned with controlling symptoms. Temporary relief of symptoms is usually quickly accomplished where actual healing takes much longer.Symptom relief vs. true healing:I believe, in our society today, we have come to substitute symtomatic relief with healing. If the pain is gone, all is good. And if we have to keep taking something for the pain to stay gone, all is still good.The herbalist has a drastically different view. The wisdom of the body dictates that the most important aspect will be addressed first. Sometimes, the most important thing is not making the pain go away. Underlying healing that needs to occur must come first.Making the pain go before there is healing is like telling a screaming child to shut up when their finger is caught in the door. The body resists lying. It is eternally truthful.The gradual reduction in pain that comes from a holistic regimen is indicative of the body response and healing and, as such, is an indicator of how well the formulation is working. Why would we remove such an important diagnostic tool?Of course, there are herbs that can ease pain as well but they are never the only thing given. If that were the case, an herbalist would be doing the same thing medical doctors often do….treating symptoms, not cause.When do herbs work best?In my opinion, herbal medicine is a way of life, not just something grasped at when there is a crisis. In fact, herbs are sometimes not the best choice when there’s a crisis. Sometimes, a condition has gone so far that only surgery or prescription drugs can prevent a life-threatening situation.However, regular use of herbs, vitamins, nutritional supplements and other natural remedies, as a part of day to day life, can definitely help the body maintain wellness.In non-acute situations, given time to work, herbals can help the body re-balance and heal itself. Because they are natural, and in synergistic balance in whole-plant form, our bodies respond to them with less resistance than to most prescription drugs.Side effects and drug interactions explored: While most herbs or nutritionals may have some potential for allergic reaction, if you compare the huge list of potential drug interactions and side effects for practically any prescription drug you care to investigate, you will soon see that the risks when taking prescription drugs far outweighs risks to consider when taking herbal remedies.There is no denying that almost every prescription drug has substantial risk for side effects or, if taking any other prescription drug with another, drug interaction dangers. By contrast, herbs taken in whole-plant form rarely create serious health concerns. In fact, about the only thing that increases risk when taking herbal remedies is if you are also taking prescription drugs.

All any logical person has to do is read the statistics on prescription drug-related deaths and compare that to the almost non-existent data on herbal complications resulting in death, to see which is safer.The bottom line for most people is patience. If you are not facing a life-threatening situation, and are willing to give natural remedies the time they need to work, you can enjoy great results, as I have all my life.Please remember that this information is educational in nature and not intended to replace your need for medical attention, diagnosis or treatment. There are progressive doctors out there, willing to work with adjunctive natural remedies. If you have an interest in herbals for healing, find a doctor like that and you can walk in two worlds.Some tips for getting the most from your herbal supplements:Start with a low dose and work your way up. Starting lower than normal can help you assess whether you have any allergic reaction.Don’t add a bunch of herbal remedies at once. You can’t tell what’s working and what isn’t working. If your herbalist or naturopath wants you to take more than one supplement, allow at least three days after taking the first one before you add the second.Be willing to allow 6 months to a year for the resolve of any chronic condition. You can’t just take an herbal remedy for a few weeks and expect your body to have what it needs to reverse a condition, like chronic heartburn, constipation, etc., that you may have had for years.

Prescription Drug Coverage

August 12, 2016

Prescription drug coverage is an important aspect of overall health care coverage. This article will briefly discuss the types of coverage that are available, as well as some things you should be aware of when choosing a plan.Most people obtain their prescription drug coverage as a part of their overall medical insurance plan. Most medical plans include some form of prescription drug coverage, and some states actually require employers to include this coverage in the medical plans that they offer to employees. Whether purchased independently or in combination with other coverage, the available types of coverage are similar.Traditional, or fee-for-service coverage is the most common form of prescription drug coverage. This type usually has an annual deductible amount in addition to the amount of the premiums. In general, the lower the premiums, the higher this deductible amount will be. This type of policy pays a percentage of your overall drug bill once the deductible has been met. This percentage is usually around 80%. This type of coverage usually requires you to pay for your prescriptions up front, and you are reimbursed by filing claims. Another aspect of this type of coverage is that you can choose whatever pharmacy you want to fill your prescriptions.

Another type of coverage that is available is provided by an HMO (or Health Maintenance Organization). This is a fairly tight-knit group of health care providers that furnish health care on a prepaid basis. The primary difference with this type of coverage is that you usually pay some form of co-pay amount for your prescriptions. You are not required to pay the full amount as with traditional coverage, only the co-pay. Your out-of-pocket expense may well be the same as with traditional coverage, but you do not have to pay the entire amount up-front and file for reimbursement. Another difference with this type of coverage is that you will be limited to pharmacies that participate in the HMO.PPOs (or Preferred Provider Organizations) are similar to HMOs, but much more loosely associated. Prescription drug coverage with a PPO will be very similar to that of an HMO – you will likely pay some co-pay amount for each prescription that you receive. However, you will have a wider range of pharmacies to choose from with this type of coverage.Another type of service that you may see advertised as prescription drug coverage is not actually an insurance plan. These are discount programs that, usually for a small monthly fee, issue a prescription drug card that qualifies you for discounts on your prescription purchases. This type of service does not usually cover all of your prescriptions. Depending on who issues the card, this discount may be limited to certain drug manufacturers, pharmacies or to certain types of drugs. While these programs can help if you are without prescription drug coverage, they should not be considered as a replacement for insurance coverage.

There are a wide number of choices available to you when choosing prescription drug coverage. This is true whether you are purchasing coverage independently or as part of a more comprehensive medical plan. You can use some of the other resources available at this site to help you in choosing the prescription coverage that is right for you.

The Increased Prices of Prescription Drugs

August 12, 2016

Do you feel as though your pharmacy bill seems to be getting larger by the day? If so, it probably is. The last four years have seen a major hike in prescription drug prices compared to other medical services and products. The Government Accountability Office, a non partisan group, submitted a study to Congress which requested they take a careful look at the data. In 2009 nearly $78 billion was spent on prescription drugs by the federal government. That is about 31 percent of the US total of $250 billion.The study found that prescription drug prices grew at the rate of 6.6% annually from the year 2006 until 2010. However, the medical consumer price index is much less than the growth rate of prescription drug prices, which only saw an annual increase of 3.8%.

The GAO report shows a similar pattern of drug price hikes from previous years. In 2007 a growth was seen in commonly used prescription drug brands and from January 2000 to 2007 prescription drug prices had grown approximately 6% per year.Thankfully not all prescription drugs fell into the price hike category. The latest study conducted by the GAO on 45 generic drugs and 55 frequently used brand drugs showed that the prices of generic drugs fell at the rate of 2.6% annually, although the rate of brand drugs grew at the rate of 8.3%. There seems to be a gap existing between the generic drug prices and brand drugs, which goes to show that patients are opting to purchase generic versions. The increase in sales of generic drugs means that the active ingredient prices paid only increased by 2.6% annually, instead of the previous increase of 6.6%.So which drugs have experienced a big price hike? Boehringer Ingelheim drug, Flomax (enlarged prostate), saw the biggest price hike in the last four years at a rate of 17.6%. Sanofi-Aventis’s Ambien used for insomnia came in second place with a price hike of 15.2%. Merck’s Clarinex, the allergy pill, came third on the list with a price hike of 12.5%.The Affordable Care Act and Prescription Drug Price HikesIs there a connection between the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug price hikes? Well, it seems to be the case when reviewing data in the study conducted by the GAO. The study reveals allegations that drug prices were jacked up in March 2010 before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. The GAO study found that drug prices grew at the rate of 5.9% during the discussion of the Act, between 2009 and 2010. This rate, however, is lower than the price hikes seen in previous years, though still higher than 2006.

There is no control act on general drug prices in the health care law passed in 2010. Beginning 2011, seniors are given a 50% discount on brand drugs when they reach the ‘donut hole’ in Medicare. This donut hole can become a major gap sometimes costing seniors as much as thousands of dollars in drug prescription expenses. It is hoped that this gap will close by the year 2020.